The SmarK Rant for Saturday Night’s Main Event #9 – 01.03.87
So unfortunately these SNME reviews have been dying hard and fast as we move on through the series and I’m gonna stop here for a while, with one of the all-time most famous episodes of the show.
Taped from Hartford, CT, on 12.14.86 and drawing 10,000 and a huge 10.6 rating. Although Vince makes sure to call it “20,000” people during the show, because that’s close enough. Kind of blows my mind that they were taping this stuff a month in advance and there was no internet to provide spoilers.
Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jesse Ventura
This one introduces one of the more famous tropes of the series, with the interview area backstage that has the shiny curtains and Mean Gene doing pre-match interviews. Also, the lighting for the arena has now been ramped WAY up, with the place lit up with house lights up for the entire show.
Meanwhile, Bobby Heenan has purchased championship belt insurance for Paul Orndorff once he wins the WWF title tonight.
WWF Title, Steel cage match: Hulk Hogan v. Paul Orndorff
As usual, Hogan steals Mr. Wonderful’s rightful music one last time before they put this feud to bed for good. By this point it was completely burned out on the house show circuit after many months and so much money drawn, all the money. Plus Hulk had other things coming up right after this was settled. Orndorff attacks and beats Hogan with his own belt, which doesn’t seem smart for someone taking out an insurance policy on it. Does it cover pre-existing conditions, I wonder? Paul goes for the door right away, but Hogan grabs the ankle and Orndorff has to beat him down again and drop an elbow on him. So he climbs out of the cage and he’s halfway down when Hogan grabs his hair and hauls him back in, prompting the famous “Hogan would not be the champion if Mr. Wonderful was bald” call from Jesse. Hulk chokes him out with his headband, sportsman that he is, and then also climbs for the cage. Well we certainly know that Orndorff isn’t gonna be grabbing any hair to save. He does manage to stop Hogan from escaping and both guys crawl for the door, but Hulk makes a comeback and slugs away. He goes for the door, but second referee Danny Davis has locked the door and he can’t get out. “That’s because Davis had the door locked!” “What’s it supposed to be, McMahon, left open?” Man’s got a point. Orndorff drops elbows and tries to run Hogan into the cage, but Hulk blocks and they both go into the cage, spitting in the face of physics! So then both guys climb the cage at the same time and both drop down, with both referees declaring both guys the winner. And then Hogan immediately demands a recount due to Deep State conspiracy and fraudulent main-in ballots! But before Hogan can beat up Danny Davis, Orndorff jumps him from behind and declares himself the champion. But in fact, the match is a tie and THIS MATCH MUST CONTINUE. After the break. We’ve got commercial commitments, after all.
Back with Orndorff tossing Hulk back in and dropping an elbow off the top, as Vince accuses him of using a foreign object thrown in by Heenan. I think history has shown it’s far more likely that Hogan brought any objects into the match. Wonderful hits him with the short clothesline, but Hulk makes the comeback and slugs away in the corner. Hulk runs him into the cage a bunch of times and hits him with a backbreaker before dropping the leg, but Bobby Heenan decides to take matters into his own hands and keep Hulk from climbing out. So Paul makes the climb with that distraction, but Hulk pulls him down, sends him into the cage again, and exits to retain his title at 15:10. Of course, this was an incredibly clever twist on the standard cage match formula that had been established up until then, which is why we all still remember and talk about it today. And it also gave us the running argument between Jesse and Vince for the rest of the show about who hit the floor first. ***1/4
WWF Intercontinental title: Randy Savage v. George Steele
Savage’s way with women is in full evidence in his pre-match promo, as he tells Elizabeth “Shut up, no one cares about you, I’m the champion!” and then calls Mean Gene a troll and threatens to shove him up against the wall. Class and nothing but. I should point out that Savage’s ugly pea soup green trunks have bugged me since 1987 and now I’m triggered by them all over again. George attacks and runs Macho into the corner to start, and then calls to the back for his promised “surprise”. But Savage chokes him out in the meantime and goes up to drop the elbow, but the [replaced generic] theme of Ricky Steamboat distracts him and Steele slams him off the top and throws him over the top rope to come back. Savage takes a HELL of a bump over the top and onto the table, by the way, and Steele kidnaps Elizabeth and takes her back to the dressing room while Steamboat makes threats at Savage to keep him in the ring. Apparently Steamboat suffered a crushed larynx at Savage’s hands, but I wouldn’t know because they don’t have any episodes of Championship Wrestling on the Network. We take a break and return with Steamboat still chasing Savage around the ring, but Steele returns without Elizabeth and tears up the turnbuckle as per usual. But Savage somehow survives the onslaught of stuffing in his hair and sends Steele into the exposed buckle to take over. Vince, meanwhile, isn’t particularly concerned about the whereabouts of Elizabeth, thinking that maybe she’s just “locked up back there somewhere.” Man, how many episodes of Forensic Files feature that twist by the 10 minute mark? A LOT OF THEM. Steele rubs more stuffing in his face and bites him on various body parts, then finds a foreign object and hits Savage with it, sending him flying to the floor. And Vince isn’t worried about what Steele did with Elizabeth? George gets frustrated and shoves the ref down, which allows Savage to hit him with the ringbell and pin him at 10:00. This was all very wacky and built up the Steamboat return as they headed to Wrestlemania III. ½* The match was negative stars but Savage was hurling himself around the ring and at least made it watchable.
Junkyard Dog v. “King” Harley Race
Race was freshly coronated at this point as Jesse points out that Race won every “King of the Ring” tournament that was held. Wait, I thought the first one was in 1993? That’s what the Superstars shows at the time have been telling me! Anyway, Vince protests that there’s only been two of the tournaments at that point, and Jesse retorts “Well, how many do you need to win?” Race immediately slugs Dog down and drops an elbow for two, then hits a high knee and drops a knee on his head for two. Dog sends him into the post and follows with a headbutt while Vince continues making unfounded accusations of malfeasance against referee Danny Davis, and a belly to belly sets up the headbutt. Which of course has no effect on the Dog. So Dog comes back and tosses Race over the top rope, and then steals the crown and robe and declares himself the new King. So Bobby attacks him from behind to reclaim the stolen property, but Dog beats him up while Race hits him from behind and drops elbows on him for the DQ at 4:33. Funny note, as Jesse accuses Vince of being all talk and never actually doing anything to make a difference to the ending of a match. Well, wait about 10 years. JYD was getting rapidly worse at this point. *
Meanwhile, Bobby Heenan refuses to concede the victory to Hogan and wants to gather legal materials for a fight to dispute the finish of the cage match. Holy cow, Orndorff’s arm here is TERRIFYING. It’s like a baby arm replacing his normal one. You can’t notice during matches that much because he’s got the giant armpad on, but you can definitely see the nerve damage taking its toll here.
Rowdy Roddy Piper v. Adrian Adonis
So apparently noted pain in Vince’s ass Adrian Adonis was fired after the last SNME, but returns here to save the program at the house shows. For me, I didn’t notice he was gone at the time because guys weren’t on TV every week and it was easy to cycle someone out for a couple of months without having it seem like they were gone. In fact, you wouldn’t even know here except that Adonis makes a point of saying that “he’s back” multiple times during the show. Adonis is noticeably heavier here than the last time he was on the show, actually. Piper blitzes him and chokes him out with the kilt (“Not the first time Adonis has had a skirt over on his head,” deadpans Vince) and Adonis bumps over the top a few times as Piper goes after the injured arm from two months back. Piper hits him with a cheapshot to the gut, however, and hits him with knees in the corner to take over, but Piper slugs him down and rams his head into the mat a few times. Adonis grabs the sleeper and they tumble to the floor off that, and Adonis sprays the perfume in Piper’s face and takes the countout win at 3:35. Nothing to this one. ½*
Meanwhile, Hulk Hogan isn’t convinced that Paul Orndorff has a case for having the decision in the cage match reversed.
The Battle for Texas: Blackjack Mulligan v. Jimmy Jack Funk
Given that there’s no Von Erichs involved here I don’t think I can sign off on the veracity of the results with regards to who rules Texas. Plus Funk is more of a representative of Portland, or Florida if you want to stretch things. Mulligan chases him out of the ring, and the poor guy doesn’t even get a pre-match promo, as they edit his interview into an inset here. Mulligan slugs away in the corner and gets a clothesline, then follows with a back elbow to finish at 2:30. Just a squash. And then he tries to hang Funk, as those wacky Texans like to do, but he escapes and runs away.
So of course this was a clear one-match show, but it was a legendary match, so that’s OK.