Saturday Night’s Main Event Countdown: #37

Yeah, I know that’s wacky numbering, but blame the Network as they have The Main Event listed as episode 37 of SNME.  I have multiple versions of the two matches featured on this show, so we’ll just include everything for fun, since they’ve been done on different DVDs and such. Netcop BONUS Retro Rant: WWF Main Event #1 (Feb. 1988) “Three years is a very long time.” – Andre the Giant, on Piper’s Pit prior to Wrestlemania III. – Live from Indianapolis, IN. – Your hosts are Vince & Jesse. – Hogan training video starts us off. He’s pumped, brother! – Opening match, Intercontinental title: The Honky Tonk Man v. Randy Savage. There’s a big ugly backstage political story behind this that I’ll get into later. HTM hits on Liz and Savage chases to start. Savage mops up with him, but Jimmy Hart’s interference (and megaphone) quickly gives Honky the advantage. He keeps stopping to swivel his hips at Liz, however, between stomps. He drops three elbows on Savage, but stops to hit on Liz again, and Savage makes the comeback. Double axehandle gets two, and Hart gets involved again. Savage puts Honky in a sleeper, but stops to save Elizabeth again, and fights with Honky on the floor. Honky hits the post, and Savage beats the count at 8:04. Cheap ending. Typical SNME match, too. ½* Savage fights off a post-match beatdown afterwards. (And now, the alternate version from Macho Madness!) Intercontinental title: Honky Tonk Man v. Randy Savage From the Main Event in February 1988, this is a match that has a lot of lore and history swirling around it, moreso than you’d expect for a mid-level feud like this. Macho attacks to start and necksnaps Honky on the top rope, then elbows him down and out of the ring before running him into Jimmy Hart. Hart hooks him up to distract him, allowing Honky to attack from behind and get a sunset flip. Savage blocks it and slugs away in the corner, but misses a charge, which allows Honky to take over. Savage takes a run at Hart again and Honky clobbers him with the megaphone for two. To the floor, where Honky hits him with an axehandle off the apron, and back in for some sweet words for Liz. What a ladies’ man. He stomps Savage down and goes to hit on Liz again while Jimmy does his damage, and Jesse blames it all on Liz. The Honkster drops some elbows and he’s still focused on Liz, but Savage has had ENOUGH of this shit and makes the comeback to a giant reaction. He tosses Honky and hits him with the axehandle. Back in, another axehandle gets two. Honky collides with Jimmy Hart and Savage gets a sleeper as the crowd goes insane, but now Savage has to contend with Peggy Sue as well. Honky charges him on the floor, but Macho steers him into the post and gets the countout at 8:23. Tremendous heat, but not a lot going on in the ring. **1/2 – Review of WM3 and the Andre situation for the casual fans. – WWF World title: Hulk Hogan v. Andre the Giant. This could be quite possibly the most important single moment in the modern era, just because of all the historical significance and precedence it set, and all the things that followed from it. This was the debut of the new WWF title belt that had been promised prior to Wrestlemania III, but never showed up for whatever reason. It’s of course the familiar design that was just retired last year when Steve Austin won the thing. Hogan does his posing before the match starts. Hogan cleans house on the seconds, then starts punching Andre. This goes on FOREVER, as Andre just keeps absorbing blows from Hogan and won’t go down. Hogan tries going to the top finally, but gets slammed off and suddenly starts selling a back injury like he was just in a career-ending car accident. Andre chokes a lot. He works a bodyslam in, then does a Hogan big boot and falls over in the process. Only quick camera work prevents him from looking like a total idiot. More choking. Still more. Choking, you say? Have some more. Hogan comes back and goes aerial, hitting a clothesline from the second rope and the STINKY WART-INFESTED NASTY GIANT-KILLING LEGDROP OF DEATH, but Virgil is distracting our referee. Hogan stops to argue the point, but Andre lumbers up and grabs him from behind, hitting a half-assed suplex/hiptoss thing and getting a one-count…which is extended into three because the ref keeps counting despite Hogan lifting his shoulder. The crowd is in SHOCK, as Hogan’s four-year title reign has come to an end under suspicious circumstances. HULK SCREWED HULK! Mean Gene pops into the ring for a word with Andre, who barely has the celebratory speech out of his mouth before he hands the title over to Ted Dibiase, becoming the shortest reigning champion in the WWF to date. The weirdness continues, as a SECOND Hebner comes out of the dressing room to argue with the first one. One of course was Dave Hebner, senior WWF referee, and the other was his twin brother Earl, current senior WWF referee. Earl eventually punks out Dave, which is good enough proof of Evil Intentions for Hogan, so he tosses Earl like a shotput into the arms of Dibiase (sending him about 15 feet into the aisleway in the process) and that’s that. ½* (And now, the alternate version from the SNME DVD!) WWF World title: Hulk Hogan v. Andre the Giant From The Main Event, on live network primetime TV. This did ungodly numbers and blows away all other ratings for wrestling matches. It also has one of the most famous finishes in history. As a match, not so good. Another first here as it marks the debut of the classic winged eagle WWF title belt, although Hulk’s pre-match interview sees him wearing the older design. Pretty big production gaffe there. Amazingly, that belt design would last for 10 years, second only to the Big Gold Belt (23 years and counting!) and the current I-C title (11 years and sorely in need of a redo). (Or in this case, a return to the previous belt.)  Hulk cleans house on Dibiase and Virgil to start and then slugs away on Andre, but can’t knock him down. Hulk tries a corner clothesline, but still can’t punch him down, even after spinning his arm around like Popeye! That would KILL a normal man! He finally tries to go up, but Andre slams him off and then misses a headbutt. Andre chokes him out and stomps him, then puts him down with the headbutts. Big boot puts Hulk on the floor, and Virgil sends him back in for some more choking. Hogan fights up and slugs away in the corner, then gets a flying clothesline and drops the leg. The ref is busy with Virgil, and Andre headbutts Hogan from behind and suplexes him for the pin and the title at 9:04, despite Hogan’s shoulder being up at one. Pff, technicalities. So Andre immediately surrenders the title to Ted Dibiase as Hogan cries like a little bitch instead of manning up and doing something about it. I really wish 24/7 would show one of the house shows with Dibiase “defending” the title against Bam Bam Bigelow, for historical reasons if nothing else. I don’t know if any of them were taped for TV, though. Anyway, the really shocking thing here is that this isn’t even the worst refereeing job Earl Hebner would do in his career. Much better than their Wrestlemania match. That’s not saying much. ** – Backstage, he delivers that classic whining interview where he demands to know “how much money [did they spend] on the plastic surgery” while nearly breaking into tears. I was busy crying my own tears – tears of joy at Hogan’s ego-ridden title reign finally coming to an end. A Strike Force-Hart Foundation tag title match was also here, but it was cut off about 10 seconds in as the show ran out of time.  (Apparently restored to full glory on the Network! All praise be to the Network!)  The Bottom Line: I recently found out an interesting story behind the whole Savage-HTM thing, because at the time I thought that Savage was a lock to kill Honky and get the title. Turns out he was. But, wrestling being the nasty, political world it is, Honky threatened to take the title and jump to the NWA very shortly before the show aired, thus messing everyone up. So in order to keep everyone happy, Honky was kept as the IC champion, and Savage was given a bigger reward: The win in the WWF title tournament at Wrestlemania IV, which had previously been promised to someone else…Ted Dibiase. This would have presumably built to a Savage-Dibiase match at the first Summerslam for the title, but things changed and Savage got a longer title reign than originally expected. It also worked out better in the end because the Megapowers thing had better symmetry with Savage winning at WM4 and losing at WM5 the next year. Life is weird, no?  (Holy cow, we’ve only heard that story a few times less than the Shane McMahon one.  Get a life.)