PG Era Retro Rant: Saturday Night’s Main Event, 3.12.88

So
I brought up this show in the discussion part of my Raw Recap post
(see elsewhere), but I wanted to give it the full treatment. Then I
remembered Scott was doing his SNME archive binge and checked with
him first. Fortunately, he said “the more the merrier”, so
here’s my look at this shindig. Scott will be along with his later.

The
PG Era Retro Rant for Saturday Night’s Main Event, March 1988.
As
with all SNMEs of the time, we open with a Pulp Interview segment.
For those not around at the time, this basically means they cut from
wrestler to wrestler with quickie commentary on the night’s matches,
with no rhyme or reason as to the order of appearance. The “Pulp”
part – which I believe was first coined on Wrestleline, actually;
Scott can back me up if he remembers – is because ECW would do this
about once a month on their Hardcore TV shows in 1998-99, using
Misrilou (aka “That Surf Guitar Solo From Pulp Fiction”) as
background music. So today’s speakers are:
  • Randy
    Savage, who tells DiBiase that money doesn’t matter in the Danger
    Zone and he’ll get bounced like a bad check;
  • Ted
    DiBiase, who says he has class to counter Macho’s crazy;
  • Brutus
    Beefcake, who hypes his match with Greg Valentine;
  • Slick
    (on behalf of the One Man Gang), who mocks the US Olympic Team
    because Gang faces Ken Patera and promises Patera will lose;
  • Bobby
    Heenan and Harley Race, who promise Hulk Hogan will be on his hands
    and knees before the King;
  • and
    Hulk Hogan, who says that Harley Race will be crowned by a big right
    hand.
Live
from Nashville, TN.
Your
hosts are Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura, who spend the first five
minutes recapping Hogan/Andre from last month and looking at the
bogus count like it’s the Zapruder film. Each one accuses the other
of being delusional and saying the other twin is crooked. (McMahon
admits to being from the South here, while Ventura confirms Vince’s
neck is very red.) Luckily, the tournament for the vacated title
will be held at WrestleMania IV.
Backstage
to Mean Gene with Greg Valentine and Jimmy Hart. Hart puts over that
this is the Dream Team meeting. Hart says prime rib Valentine will
beat that rump roast Beefcake, while Valentine will tenderize
Beefcake with the Hammer (Elbow). According to Okerlund’s throw to
the booth, Valentine was go-nowhere after the Dream Team breakup
until hooking up with Jimmy Hart. Hart, by the way, more famously
manages Intercontinental Champion Honky Tonk Man, who at WrestleMania
IV will face Brutus Beefcake. INTRIGUE!
Later,
Okerlund interviews Beefcake, who turns the whole interview into
barber puns to the point that even Okerlund makes one.
Greg
Valentine v. Brutus Beefcake.

Brutus chases Valentine to the outside with his hedge clippers
before the bell rings. Hebner removes the hedge clippers… then
sees Beefcake also has barber shears and has to remove them, too.
Valentine understandably is slow to enter. Lockup, and Beefcake
shoves Valentine down. Valentine gets a kneelift and forearms, but a
clothesline misses and Beefcake with a Harley Race Knee and bodyslam.
Big boot by Brutus and Valentine does a Flair Flop. Beefcake struts
and goes to town with rights before landing an atomic drop (complete
with hilarious sell by Valentine), then another. Beefcake with a
running jump elbow and jack-knife pin for two, which impresses
Ventura. Ten punches in the corner and Valentine gets another Flair
Flop. The ref breaks up a lockup in the corner, allowing Valentine
to land a forearm to Brutus’s head and some front elbows. Hammer
Elbow off the top floors Brutus, then he winds up and drops a forearm
for two. Valentine applies the Figure-Four right by the ropes, and
both men grab it. Valentine has til five, you know. Valentine kicks
Beefcake out of the ring, allowing Valentine to get in an argument
with the ref. Must be Earl Hebner and not Dave because the ref tried
to fight back. And then Honky Tonk Man steals the house mic to mock
Beefcake and promise Brutus will never cut his hair or take his
title. Hebner and the other referees escort Honky to the back as
Ventura imagines Brutus is demoralized and we go to break.
Hammer/Barber,
part two.

Hammer pulls Barber up and throws him back in the ring, dropping
another Hammer Elbow to the back of the head. More elbows to the
skull (which at this point is 0% metallic), then a slam setting up
the figure-four. Valentine with a headbutt to the, erm, gut, then he
hyperextends the knees. Hammer rubs his sole of the boot into
Brutus’s calf like he’s extinguishing a cigarette, but the
figure-four is blocked when Beefcake pantses Valentine. A second try
is kicked out of, and Beefcake recovers with a back elbow. Slugfest,
won by Barber with massive chops, and another back elbow floors
Valentine. Beefcake wants the sleeper, and he hooks it on as the
crowd loves it. Valentine makes the ropes, and both men tumble
outside. Hart revives Valentine, but Beefcake is up first with
Polish Hammers. Back in, but Hart attacks Beefcake which Barber
rightly no-sells to start a chase. He almost catches Hart, but
Valentine stomps on Beefcake when Hart dives into the ring. Back
suplex with a bridge ends it at 9:00 shown, but Beefcake’s shoulder
was clearly up at two. What gives? Oh, the ref was counting
Valentine’s shoulders down instead, so Beefcake wins. Eh, the double
pin spot has its place – such as after a long match with a
desperation move where both men are tired (Cena/Punk 2012 comes to
mind) – but this wasn’t it. Too bad, because it was a fun match
with a veteran heel against a fired-up babyface. **1/2
Ventura
is indignant at the decision because of course he is. Beefcake
steals a lock of Valentine’s hair as a reward, which infuriates the
Hammer. Beefcake protects himself with the shears, which causes
Hamer to freak out and run. Beefcake ALMOST catches Jimmy Hart
instead.
Back
to Gene Okerlund, who is with Bobby the Brain and Harley Race.
Heenan is told the vacated crowd is on Heenan’s shoulders, which
Heenan gleefully claims. He loved seeing Andre the Giant beat Hogan
and seeing the kids cry. And tonight, they’ll see even worse when
Harley Race humiliates Hogan by making him bow before the King. And
if you at home wish to bow, go ahead. Race says that Hogan was
proven mortal, and all mortals bow to the King. But wait, Heenan
says Hogan will go so far as to kiss the feet of the King.
Back
to Okerlund with Hogan now. Hogan refutes Hulkamania’s death, saying
that the juggernaut is running and Race is roadkill. Yeah, Heenan is
smart – he sold Andre to DiBiase because it was the only way Andre
could win. Hulk only bows to Jesus. And when Hogan’s done, Race
will be in pieces. Hogan tears his shirt backstage.
Harley
Race v. Hulk Hogan.

This is 1988, which is too bad because it’s a 1985 dream match. In
a neat bit of continuity, Hogan doesn’t replace his shirt between
interview and match, so it comes out pre-torn. If the storyline
didn’t make it clear, this match is like CM Punk and Curtis Axel last
year – a lesser member of the heel stable paying for the sins of
its ringleader. There’s a lot of fighting before the bell, so I’m
starting the clock on first contact. Hogan intimidates Heenan and
chases him halfway up the aisle. Race catches Hogan sneaking in with
elbows, but Hogan is in pure no-sell mode… until Race gets some
headbutts. One too many just gets wakes Hogan up, and he unloads on
Race with right hands. Of note: Hogan’s right fist is taped in this
match. Hogan rips his shirt as the bell rings 50 seconds in. Axe
Bomber to Race as Heenan returns. A second Axe Bomber and Hogan
clotheslines Race into the timekeeper’s table (which back then was
right next to the ring). On the outside, Race eats apron before
being sent into the post like he’s Rey Mysterio against Kevin Nash in
1996. Hogan has a chance to chase Heenan and gleefully does so, but
Race recovers and takes over with axehandles. Piledriver try by Race
on the floor, but Hogan backdrops out. Atomic drop, still on the
floor as they have been for well over a minute as the crowd is loving
it. Race eats more post, and Hogan rolls in and back out. Slam on
the floor, and Hogan stomps away. Back in, Hogan with a bionic elbow
and big chops. Hogan pounds away on Race’s temple as even Ventura is
impressed with how nuts Hogan is. Hogan chokes Race out with the
tape that was on his fist, then a clothesline into a blatant choke.
This is shades of Hollywood here. Hogan with right hands, then he
chokes Race against the ropes. The ref pulls him away, but that just
stalls for a second. Heenan tries to pull Hogan away, so Hogan
strangles Heenan until Race pounds Hogan from behind. Headbutt and
falling headbutt follow. Kneedrop softens Hogan up, and Race with a
belly-to-belly suplex. Another kneedrop, this one across the throat,
sets up a piledriver. Race stomps Hogan right on the forehead before
tossing Hogan outside. Race moves the timekeeper table into position
and sets Hogan on it, then goes to the apron for a falling
headbutt… but Hogan moves and Race smashes the table so hard it
craters! ECDUB! ECDUB! Anyway, Hogan can’t recover, so Race throws
him back in, though he’s worse for wear. Some clubbering follows,
then Race goes up for the diving headbutt. Race is as woozy as
Hogan, but recovers in time to cover for… two. Hulk Up time, and
Hogan doesn’t even block a punch, kicking Race in the gut and getting
two straight Axe Bombers before the Legdrop for the pin at 7:26.
Heenan attacks from behind, but that just gets Hulk angry. And you
won’t like Hulk when he’s angry! (I’ve been waiting for months to
write that.) Heenan manages to escape. **1/2
About that table spot: it was pretty clear the table wasn’t prepped
beforehand – the steel supports were still in – which wound up
doing a number on Race. In fact, internal injuries he suffered on
that spot basically convinced Race to hang them up.
Back
to Gene, who’s with Ted DiBiase and Virgil. DiBiase: “Hogan isn’t
quite the same without the belt, is he?” DiBiase doesn’t have it
either, but that’ll be settled at Mania. Earlier on – during the
Pulp Interview – DiBiase said he’d have something or someone worth
his weight in gold. DiBiase dismisses speculation and threatens
Savage, saying he (DiBiase) destroyed Hulkamania. Savage thinks he’s
macho for having a hot babe? Riches are macho. And he’s going to
learn that here.
And
now, the Macho Man’s rebuttal. He isn’t worried about the surprise
in his corner. DiBiase couldn’t buy the title or Hulkamania, and now
he’s going after Macho Madness. DiBiase’s like one of his checks:
he’s about to get bounced. Elizabeth is worth WAY more than her
weight in gold – she’s a platinum doll. So there. Let’s go cash
in!
Ted
DiBiase v. Randy Savage.

Vince says Ventura is the secret DiBiase has, but he denies it. By
the way, this is the main event of WrestleMania IV just three weeks down the line, but no one could predict that. And DiBiase’s
secret weapon: Andre the Giant in his corner. Savage sees Virgil
talk to Elizabeth and fires to the outside to beat him up, but
DiBiase attacks Savage and throws him in. Into the buckle goes
Savage, and DiBiase fires away in the corner. He chokes Savage
against the top rope, catapulting him back. Back elbow and DiBiase
trash talks Elizabeth before picking Savage up and sending him into
the corner headfirst. DiBiase works the gut in the corner, then
promises he’ll take the belt. DiBiase to the second rope, and he
drops a bionic elbow. Blatant choke by DiBiase, over and over, and
Andre adds a shove to Savage behind the ref’s back. Vince says the
Hebners have been fingerprinted to prevent shenanigans as Savage
reverses a Hammer Throw and gets an elbow and jumping kick. A knee
to the back sends DiBiase over and out, and Savage follows to get him
back in. Flying axhandle by Savage, and DiBiase begs off. A kick by
DiBiase is caught into a clothesline for two. Savage with his
Hotshot on DiBiase, and he returns with a big kick and running
elbowsmash. DiBiase falls out of the ring, and Savage INVITES HIM
BACK IN. Ha! DiBiase consults with Andre before stalling and making
his way to the apron. DiBiase comes in with a knee to the gut and
clubs away before dropping some Million Dollar Fists. DiBiase chops
Savage into the corner, but a blind charge eats knees. Savage with
an elbowdrop (from the mat, sadly) for two. Slam, but the kneedrop
misses. DiBiase with the spinning toe hold, but Savage kicks DiBiase
out of the ring again. DiBiase drags Savage out with him, but Savage
slams DiBiase into the apron. Suplex try, but Andre distracts Savage
and Virgil cheapshots him. The referee ejects Virgil from ringside,
with Andre telling him to just go and that he has it from here.
Savage/DiBiase,
part two.

DiBiase back in and to the second rope with an axhandle. Running
elbowdrop gets two. We hit the chinlock as we look over Elizabeth’s
shoulder. DiBiase does the Dolph Ziggler leg lift to add leverage,
but Savage gets the arm up on a KO check. DiBiase uses the hair to
maintain the chinlock, adding knees to the back. Savage fights to
his feet, elbowing out of it and getting a tackle. Criss-crossing
leads to a lariat by Savage, and a Hammer Throw is followed by a
bionic elbow and back body drop. DiBiase begs off but goes to the
eyes, and the referee is wiped out on a criss-cross. Savage dumps
DiBiase and dives off with an axhandle. Andre saunters over and
headbutts Savage down before sending him into the post. Elizabeth is
worried. DiBiase comes back in and wakes up the ref as Elizabeth
runs to the back. Ventura calls Liz an abandoner as Andre tosses
Savage left and right and chops away. Meanwhile, DiBiase wakes the
referee up and makes sure the referee looks ONLY AT HIM while Andre
pounds away. The crowd demands Hogan to make the save, but it’s too
late and Savage is done. Countout follows at 11:40 shown. ***
Andre continues the beating post-match, as does Virgil (hey, the
match is over, he’s not ejected anymore). Many-teaming continues
until Hulk Hogan returns with a chair and sends everyone scattering.
Elizabeth is with Hogan when he shows up, leading to the assumption
that Liz was off to get Hogan. Or because it’s suddenly safe with
Hogan around. Depending on which announcer you ask, of course.
Hogan helps Savage to the back.
Vince:
“Look at Savage and Elizabeth – with the Hulkster between them!”
Jesse:
“Yeah, the Hulkster might get between them at WrestleMania!”
One
year off, Jesse. One year off.
Anyway,
Ventura “races” to the back to interview Heenan (who is now in a
beekeeper’s outfit with a leash) and the Islanders. Oh, yeah, this
would be during the “Matilda is stolen” angle that was… just…
weird. It’s his tribute to the Wild Kingdom. The Islanders love
animals, as we can tell from their barking. The Bees will be down to
wax that Gene Okerlund will shine his head with.
Killer
Bees v. Islanders.

The Killer Bees as Jim Brunzell (who later became a great
enhancement talent in the early Raw era) and Brian Blair, famous for
being the subject of a YouTube rant that turned Iron Sheik into
everyone’s crazy grandpa. The Islanders are Tama and
THEMONSTERMENG… er, I mean, Haku. Ventura “races” back to
commentary, pretending to be out of breath as he arrives. Brunzell
attacks Tama and gets a slam and legdrop for two, brother. Blair in
with an elbow to the arm off the second rope, then a cradle for two.
Brunzell back in to continue the arm work, into a hiptoss and
armlock. Tama goes for the ride but misses a dropkick, allowing Tama
a headbutt as Vince and Jesse go on a sidebar about the tights being
worn. Back scratch and suplex by Tama, getting two. Haku in, and he
gets a clubbing blow and dropkick for two. He sends Brunzell into
Tama’s foot and makes the tag, but Brunzell fights out with an
inverted atomic drop. Haku tags himself in and chops away, but a
double clothesline follows. Tama in, but he can’t stop Brunzell from
reaching Blair. Blair with an atomic drop and Haku gets sent flying
too. Slam to Tama, then Haku, but Tama rakes the eyes to stop
momentum. Blair rolls up Tama, but Haku enters to save, but Brunzell
cuts him off, BUT that causes the ref to stop the count and clear the
ring. Haku lariats Blair, and Tama’s on top for the pin at 3:39.
*1/4
Okerlund
(getting paid overtime tonight) is with Slick and the Gang. Okerlund
brings up the US Olympic comments, and Slick re-iterates that the US
team is Losers with a capital L. And Okerlund should know – his
son was on the loser hockey team! (Wait, he was? [checks Wikipedia]
Dang, he was!) And besides, if they were such losers, why call in
George Steinbrenner? Okerlund: “He’ll help the team.” This
marks the last time any babyface said anything nice about
Steinbrenner on TV. Slick then says forget about the Olympic team –
who needs a team when you have a Gang?
One
Man Gang v. Ken Patera.

Gang attacks Patera as he’s removing his track pants, clubbing away
and choking him with the pants. He strangles Patera against the
ropes and clubs some more, adding right hands. Patera slugs back,
rocking the Gang, then kicks him in the corner and sends him across
the ring… before hooking on a bearhug! Even the announcers are
impressed. Patera even gets Gang off the ground – not far, and not
for long, but off the ground. Gang rakes the eyes to break, then
does more CLUBBERIN, THEY BE CLUBBERIN TONY! Patera ducks one and
gets the full nelson out of nowhere, but Gang makes the ropes.
Patera keeps up the offense with forearms and elbows, but Gang
reverses and softens Patera’s gut in the corner. More body squashes
by the Gang, but Patera reverses and works Gang’s gut instead. A
right hand sets up a corner whip and knee in the corner. It’s ten
punches from there, then he keeps up the striking, but Gang with a
Vader attack and he falls on top for the pin at 3:07. Was that match
cut for time constraints? 1/2*
Gang keeps attacking, but Patera knocks Gang down with a second-rope
forearm. He gets Gang up for a slam, but Slick enters with the cane
to wiggle Gang free.
Hulk
Hogan gets the last words with Mean Gene. He’s laughing maniacally.
Okerlund’s even concerned. But Hogan says he’s in Stark Raving
Maniac mode. As far as Hulk goes, everyone who was involved in the
payoff announced the rules no longer apply. Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum! Andre
the Giant, here I come!
Vince
and Jesse wrap things up, hyping the Championship Tournament.
THOUGHTS:
Hey,
for free TV we had a pretty darn good show! You got a long-overdue
tag team blowoff, you got a shockingly vicious brawl and Hogan
showing more fire than he had to, and Savage/DiBiase was just enough
of an appetizer for the house show circuit after WrestleMania IV.
Heck, even Patera and the Gang seemed motivated, even though it was
all punch-kick between them. It’s only an hour or so once they cut
out the commercials, so definitely worth a watch. One of the best
SNMEs, and one that wouldn’t be out of place as a SmackDown today…
assuming you threw in some angle advancement, of course.
STATS:
MATCH
TIME: 34:52 over five matches
BEST
MATCH: Savage/DiBiase
WORST
MATCH: Gang/Patera
NIGHT
MVP: Brutus Beefcake for winning the feud and cutting Valentine’s
hair
FINAL
SCORE: 7.5. It’s too bad this show wasn’t in front of a better
WrestleMania, but it stands out on its own. The usual weak ending,
but no one was watching past the first three matches anyway, which
delivered in spades. Hey, I saw three (or four, if you include
Bees/Islanders) passable matches in an hour’s worth of watching.
That’s a great number even today!
Scott,
your turn.