The SmarK Rant for the Wrestling Classic – 11.07.85
Live on WRESTLE-VISION! Basically this was the first ever wrestling pay-per-view, featuring a 16 man tournament and a WWF title main event. It’s been many years since I last reviewed it, plus this is the full 2:30 PPV version and not the 2:00 Coliseum edit, so it’s probably worth another look.
From the Rosemont Horizon in Rosemont, IL, drawing a “sellout” of somewhere between 12,000 and 14,000 according to different sources, and a 2.5 buyrate. I can’t imagine the PPV universe was very big in 1985 so that’s probably not a whole lot of buys. Basically it means 2.5 percent of people with access to the show bought it.
Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse Ventura
Vince McMahon discusses the bracket with Lord Alfred Hayes, who notes that if you put together a decathlon and triathlon, that’s the endurance needed to win this grueling tournament.
Earlier tonight, people draw names out of a bowl to determine first round opponents. Then Mean Gene introduces Jack Tunney, who is very excited to be here. By his standards.
Round one: Adrian Adonis v. Corporal Kirschner
We’re in the last vestiges of leather-jacket street tough Adonis at this point, and Gorilla actually references the East-West Connection and calls them former tag team champions! That was pretty notable in 1985. Kirschner takes Adonis down with some armdrags and works a headlock on the mat, but Adonis snaps off a suplex to escape from that. He drops an elbow and goes to a chinlock, but Kirschner fights out and sets up for a suplex, which Adrian turns into a DDT for the pin at 3:23. Well that was a shitty opener, but the finish looked amazing. *
Afterwards, Jimmy Hart dubs him “Adorable” Adrian Adonis in victory.
Round one: Dynamite Kid v. Nikolai Volkoff
Volkoff’s rendition of the Soviet national anthem stretches into the extended Aviici remix, so Kid gets pissed and goes up with a missile dropkick for the pin in 7 seconds. Still a funny banana peel finish.
Meanwhile, Mean Gene chats with Randy Savage, who is hyper and twitchy, no doubt due to his excitement over the tournament and no other reasons.
Round one: Randy Savage v. Ivan Putski
Putski uses his POLISH POWER to shrug off Savage’s offense and flexes a lot, then blocks a trip to the corner and runs Savage into the turnbuckle instead. Savage tries the jabs, but Putski slugs him into the corner and beats him down as Savage bumps all over for him. But then he takes Putski down in the corner and uses the ropes for the pin at 2:48 and that’s that. Nothing to this one, as Putski didn’t sell anything and barely even stayed down for the pin. * for Savage’s bumps.
Meanwhile, Vince runs down the bracket thus far, and Volkoff bursts in ranting about Russians laughing last.
Round one: Ricky Steamboat v. Davey Boy Smith
Quite the wacky first round match here. Jesse is convinced that SOMEONE is gonna cheat here at some point. They trade hiptoss counters and Davey gets the move, and Steamboat bridges out of a takedown and into a backslide for one. Davey gets a nice press slam for two and goes to a facelock, then presses him up into another slam for two. Back to the facelock, but Steamboat suplexes him and then hits knee on a splash. Davey throws dropkicks, but charges and crotches himself on the top rope, at which point he’s like “Ricky, my bollocks are FOOKED!” and the ref calls for the bell at 3:00. Hopefully I was able to convey Davey’s accent properly there. Match was pretty fun for the three minutes it lasted. ***
Meanwhile, the Junkyard Dog cannot take Iron Sheik for granted, and Gene feels like Chicago is JYD’s kinda town. I have no idea why that would be and they don’t really elaborate on it. Dog in particular doesn’t seem particularly thrilled to be there, which is weird considering how the tournament proceeded.
Round one: Junkyard Dog v. The Iron Sheik
So here they kind of mute “Grab Them Cakes” but don’t overdub with something else like they usually do. Or wait, I thought “Grab Them Cakes” and the other Wrestling Album cuts weren’t on the banned list? Or maybe they were dubbing over “Another One Bites the Dust”? I’m so confused. Sheik attacks and beats him down, but Dog puts him down with a headbutt and Sheik takes a walk to the floor and thinks it over. Back in, Sheik tries a full nelson, but Dog casually escapes and puts him down with a clothesline for two. Headbutt misses and Sheik puts him in the camel clutch. But he’s got no leverage and Dog kind of falls out of the hold by going limp. Sheik beats on him in the corner and chokes him out, but then shoves the ref and Dog hits Sheik with another headbutt and gets the flash pin at 3:31. To his credit, the ref didn’t even fast count the Sheik, even though he probably would have been within his rights to do so. Another fun match that was all action, which you wouldn’t normally think by seeing the participants. **1/2
Meanwhile, Terry Funk wants to win the $50,000 tournament and beat Paul Orndorff, then challenge new WWF champion Roddy Piper, and he finishes by spitting tobacco at the camera. Classy as ever!
Round one: Moondog Spot v. Terry Funk
Funk decides to try the intellectual approach to this battle, offering a draw to the Moondog by virtue of both of them leaving the ring and going to the back, because neither one wants to fight! So Funk tricks him into walking to the back, but then turns on him and runs for the ring again, at which point Spot trips him up and pulls him out of the ring, then beats the count for the win at 0:28. Well that’s certainly one way to beat Funk in the first round, I guess. DUD A lot of this stuff comes across as the booking being too clever for its own good.
Meanwhile, Mean Gene has words with Magnificent Muraco and Mr. Fuji as they prepare for Tito Santana. Mean Gene dryly noting that Muraco “has gotta be in top condition” for the tournament and then glancing down at his beer gut is an underrated great bit of business.
Round one: Magnificent Muraco v. Tito Santana
Bottom half of this draw is pretty loaded. Tito slugs away to start, but Muraco beats him down in the corner. Tito gets a quick crossbody for two, but Muraco tries a backdrop, only for Tito to reverse that into a sunset flip for two. Muraco tries a neckbreaker and Tito turns that into a backslide for two. Muraco takes an upside-down bump in the corner and Tito goes to work on the arm, but Muraco escapes with a clothesline and drops a knee for two. Powerslam gets the pin at 4:11, but the ref rules that Tito was in the ropes, and while Muraco is celebrating, Tito rolls him up for the pin at 4:15. Another one where they had to get clever instead of just putting one guy over. As noted by Jesse, the ref sure didn’t bother to tell MURACO that the match was continuing! Best match of the first round thus far. **3/4
Meanwhile, Bobby Heenan might not be involved directly in this tournament, but he’s got $50,000 for anyone who brings him the head of Paul Orndorff. Ah, good old bounty angles!
Round one: Paul Orndorff v. Cowboy Bob Orton
Orndorff was a top babyface coming off Wrestlemania, and this of course relates directly to that. A guy who looks and acts like Mr. Wonderful was always going to be an ill-fitting babyface act, though. Paul works on the injured forearm immediately, while Gorilla skeptically notes that the forearm has been injured for 8 months straight now. Well obviously if he keeps working with a broken forearm, it’s gonna take longer to heal! That’s just science, like how you can decrease coronavirus rates by doing less testing. Orndorff charges and runs into a knee in the corner and Orton stomps him down to take over. Orton slugs him down, but Orndorff tries a sunset flip and then uses the tights to finish the move for two. Jesse notes that Orndorff still has a rulebreaking streak in him. Oh, he sure would. Orton works a headscissors on the mat and then turns it into a bridge and backslide for two, and follows with a biel into the corner. He charges and runs into the corner, and Orndorff makes the comeback with a back elbow and precursor to the Boogie Woogie Elbowdrop. Orton bumps to the floor and Orndorff gives chase, but Bob loads up the cast and nails Orndorff, which draws a DQ at 6:35 to finish off the first round with another good match. **1/2
Meanwhile, Alfred is busy putting the moves on the hostess, but Vince interrupts him long enough to run down the upcoming second round. And then Terry Funk bursts in and he’s PISSED at the injustice perpetrated by the referee in his match. I OUGHTTA SLAP YA, YA BIG EYED JERK! Tell ‘em, Terry!
Quarterfinals: Adrian Adonis v. The Dynamite Kid
Kid gets some armdrags and sends Adonis running to the floor, but Adrian catapults him into the corner to take over and gets a slam for two. So at this point Jesse leaves the table and heads to the back so he can talk to the Macho Man about his impending match. Adonis with a chinlock, but Kid gets a suplex to escape and then misses a splash. Adrian goes to work on the leg and tries a SHARPSHOOTER on Dynamite, but Kid is in the ropes and comes back with a O’Connor roll out of the corner for two. Adrian boots him down again, but Kid runs him into the corner to knock the wind out of him and comes back with a lariat and flying kneedrop for two. Snap suplex and a headbutt follows, but Jimmy Hart gets involved and Kid shoves them together and pins Adonis at 5:29. Man, Dynamite was considered “small” at the time, but bring him to RAW today and Vince would push him to the fucking moon in an instant. Pretty hot match here as well. **1/2 This show is actually much better than I remembered thus far.
Meanwhile, Jesse Ventura has made it to the back and chats with Mean Gene about how he’s got a PLAN for Randy Savage to follow. But he’s still an unbiased announcer.
Quarterfinals: Randy Savage v. Ricky Steamboat
I like how Finkel reminds us who each guy beat in the first round. Keeps it flowing for the live crowd instead of just being a bunch of matches one after another. As usual, Savage gets a cheapshot and then hides behind Liz, but Steamboat chops him out of the ring. They slug it out on the floor and Savage beats on him back in the ring, but Steamboat takes him to the floor with a headscissors and they fight out there again. Steamboat gets an atomic drop out there, and back in for the big chop, but Savage hits him with a backdrop suplex as Jesse rejoins us on commentary. Steamboat fights back with more chops and gets a suplex, with both guys taking a somersault bump off it, and the flying bodypress gets two. More chops as Savage bails to the apron to escape, and he pulls out the foreign object, nails Steamboat to block a suplex, and gets the pin at 3:22. Man, Savage LOVED that finish! Way too short as usual for this show, but again it was all action. ***
Meanwhile, Mean Gene chats with Moondog Spot, and good luck to him there.
Quarterfinals: Moondog Spot v. Junkyard Dog
Spot attacks before we even get a referee, but he misses a splash and Dog headbutts him and makes his own count at 0:23. Another needlessly clever twist finish.
Meanwhile, Bobby Heenan is back and offers his thoughts on the upcoming main event title match, and one guess who he’s picking.
Quarterfinals: Paul Orndorff v. Tito Santana
Sadly, Tito tries to toss his shirt to the crowd, but it lands on the floor, so some agent has to throw it into the crowd for him. BABYFACE FAIL. Tito works a headlock on the mat and Paul reverses to a wristlock, but Tito takes him down with a headscissors. Jesse is still convinced that Orndorff still another level to stoop to with the money on the line. Orndorff works a hammerlock on the mat and grinds on that, but Tito makes the ropes and tempers are rising. Jesse is like…
…but they continue working clean as Orndorff takes him down and goes to work on the conspicuously-taped leg of Santana. Tito escapes a figure-four and fights up again, so Orndorff backs off and lets him recover, and then WALLOPS him on the ropes to Jesse’s delight. Tito is also willing to play that game and they fight on the floor and scrap until they’re counted out at 8:08. So both guys are out. This really didn’t go anywhere. **
Meanwhile, Alfred continues molesting the hostess, as British guys harassing women is sadly not as cute and innocent these days as it was in 1985. So JYD gets a bye to the finals in some ass-backwards booking. Way to make your babyface look like a fluke finalist. His win over Spot was barely even an official match!
WWF World title: Hulk Hogan v. Rowdy Roddy Piper
So like, what’s with the weird photoshopped graphic of “World champion” here?
I don’t recall the details of the original tape but that just looks like someone edited it for reasons I’m not sure about. Hulk immediately pulls him out to the floor for a brawl, like a true champion. Back in, Piper rakes the eyes and hits him in the throat to take over, which serves Hogan right because he was the first one to take the cheapshot. Hulk fights back with a corner clothesline and follows with a backdrop suplex and drops elbows. He slugs away in the corner, of course using an illegal closed fist in the ropes, and finally Piper is forced to defend himself using Hogan’s own dirty tactics. He goes up and tries an axehandle, but Hulk catches him in a bearhug and Piper pokes him in the eye for two. Piper tries the sleeper and gets Hogan down to the mat, but Hulk makes a comeback and they tumble to the floor. Hogan runs him into the post, as you’d expect from someone like Hogan, and back in for the big boot and atomic drop. Ref gets bumped as Hogan runs into him and makes NO effort to get out of the way, so Piper stands up for the poor ref and beats on Hogan with a chair to teach him a lesson in respecting authority figures. Hogan escapes that and puts Piper in an obviously illegal chokehold, so Bob Orton bravely runs in to save his friend and associate from permanent brain damage by breaking it up with his cast at 7:08. He’s a GODDAMN HERO, but who wins the match by DQ? Hogan. Where is the justice, I ask you? Paul Orndorff chases them off and celebrates with Hogan, clearly a tag team that will stand the test of time forever. This was every Hogan-Piper house show match from the time. *1/2
Semi-finals: The Dynamite Kid v. Randy Savage
Although Savage has retained his same lavender trunks through all three matches thus far, he has changed to a new ring robe each time to at least keep that fresh. Also, he switched kneepads here, going to yellow ones instead of the red ones he had been using in the previous rounds. Why the kneepads and not the trunks? The Macho Man is indeed an enigma wrapped in a riddle. Kid takes him to the mat with some RASSLIN and Macho wants none of that and bails. I will say that although we’ve learned many deep dark secrets about British wrestlers in the past two weeks, at least Dynamite Kid had the decency to be entirely up-front about being a miserable scumfuck of a human being from day one. Kid beats on Macho and puts him down with a shoulderblock, then follows with a backdrop as you can just see every bit of the influence he had on Benoit with every move. Kid with a sunset flip to counter a backdrop, but Macho drops onto his ribs to break. Kid misses a bodypress and wipes out in a weird spot, but then they try it again and Kid hits a sling blade this time. Macho goes up and Kid brings him down with a dropkick in a great spot, but then he follows with a superplex and Savage does an amazing cradle on impact and gets the win at 4:55. That’s another one that’s been stolen dozens of times since then. Kid could have been made a singles star by his performance in this tournament, just an incredible three matches for a guy who was basically just half of a tag team for the past year. ***
Vince McMahon and the ditzy hostess, Susan, introduce the Rolls Royce giveaway, which is Finkel introducing Jack Tunney, Basil DeVito, some other guy, and then Alfred Hayes as they waste a bunch of time and then announce that some guy from Illinois wins the car. The crowd boos this announcement.
Meanwhile, Mean Gene has words with Hogan and Orndorff, and apparently any time that Piper and Orton want “ring a ding dingy” round three, they’re game. Hogan and Orndorff watch each other’s back, you know!
Tournament final: Junkyard Dog v. Randy Savage
Savage stalls to start and then does badly in a lockup battle, allowing Dog to headbutt him in the lower back and follow with an atomic drop. Bearhug follows, but Savage goes to the eyes to break, so Dog pounds on the back again, but Savage comes out of the corner with the clothesline for two. Savage tosses him and drops the axehandle, then works the ribs and drops another one. He chokes the Dog out on the railing and drops an elbow, but Dog blocks the flying axehandle back in the ring. Comeback time as he headbutts Savage on the mat and yanks him out of the corner with the London Bridge, and another headbutt ties Savage up in the ropes. Savage goes to the eyes, but charges and gets backdropped to the floor, giving Dog the win and the tournament by countout at 9:30. No real story told here. **1/4 I mean, aside from Savage working four hard matches and then coming out the loser while JYD skates through with a fluke “win” over a Moondog and then gets a bye to the finals.
I mean, it was actually a fun and memorable show, but JYD winning led to literally nothing and was never mentioned again as far as I know. But for a one-off show and their first effort on PPV, you could do a lot worse, and the finishes were really creative with a bunch of fast-paced short matches, so it never dragged, if nothing else. I think it’s worth checking out still.