The SmarK Rant for The Main Event #1 – 02.05.88
(Originally written 12.12.20)
I know we’ve talked about this show a million times already, but hey, there’s always someone reading for the first time. It of course cannot be understated how giant this show was, pardon the pun, on so many levels. You could easily call it one of the peaks in the entire history of wrestling without fear of contradiction, as Vince McMahon had the biggest rematch in wrestling history loaded up and ready, and chose to put it on prime time television on NBC. But of course it was the undercard match that changed the course of wrestling history.
Live from Indianapolis, IN, drawing an unknown attendance but a 15.2 rating, or about 33 million people at the peak. This made it by far the most viewed show in the history of North American wrestling (there were Japanese shows that drew bigger audiences, though) and a record that will likely never be topped again. However, the crazy thing is that even though it drew a gigantic number by wrestling standards, by network TV standards it was barely a blip on the radar, hardly even registering in the charts for the week. And yet now the tide has turned, with wrestling being the superstar draw for cable and network TV while everything else retreats to streaming services.
Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jesse Ventura.
Of course, the setup for this show is famous, as Ted Dibiase decided to buy a World title and thus bought the contract of Andre the Giant from Bobby Heenan for a cool million dollars, then signed him to face Hulk Hogan in a rematch that had been building since Wrestlemania III.
The altered opening for this one is pretty awesome, focusing squarely on the two matches, Hulk v. Andre and Honky Tonk Man v. Macho Man, complete with still frames and fancy logos for them.
Meanwhile, Hulk Hogan is working out at the gym, using music on the Network that sounds like Jake Roberts’ theme.
Meanwhile, Honky Tonk Man feels like the story isn’t his title defense against Macho, but it’s the budding romance between himself and Elizabeth. Apparently he’ll take her to the Heartbreak Hotel and Love Her Tender while Savage is In the Ghetto. I’m surprised the Network didn’t edit out the song titles mentioned and dub in more generic jokes.
Intercontinental title: Honky Tonk Man v. Randy Savage
So as discussed many times before, original plan was for Savage to crush him here and win the title, and then go into the tournament as Intercontinental champion so that he could lose and still come out as a champion. But Honky felt disrespected by Vince basically asking him to lose in a squash match with 30 million people watching, so he refused to do the job and threatened to take the title to Crockett unless the finish was changed. Not wanting to jeopardize the show hours before it went live, Vince agreed and offered Savage a better deal in exchange, and Honky promised that when the time was right, he’d do business and then some. And he definitely lived up to that. Honky puts his best moves on Elizabeth while Peggy Sue distracts Savage, and that results in Macho attacking Honky and necking him on the top rope before putting him down with an elbow out of the corner. Honky bails for a meeting with Jimmy and Savage rams them together, but Jimmy grabs his foot and Honky gets a cheapshot to take over. He tries a sunset flip and Savage slugs away on him, but misses a charge and hits the turnbuckle. Jimmy gets involved again thanks to THE WORST EVER, Joey Marella, allowing Honky to hit Savage with the megaphone to get the heat, and that gets two. Honky goes to the chinlock and Savage elbows out of that, but Honky hits him with a knee and puts him on the floor. Back in, Honky puts the boots to him and slugs away in the corner, but Savage makes the comeback, so Honky puts him down again and once again goes after Elizabeth. I mean, Honky was the champion and a pretty stable personality, maybe she should have went with him instead? But poking the bear once again backfires on Honky and Savage hits him with the double axehandle to the floor, then back in for another one in the ring and Savage has had enough. He beats on Jimmy Hart and puts Honky in a sleeper, but now Peggy Sue goes after Elizabeth and Savage goes to smack HER around, too. Guys, I think Randy Savage has some anger issues. Honky goes after him and misses a charge, hitting the post for the countout at 8:22. I’m surprised Joey Marella can count to 10. Because HE’S THE WORST. ***1/4 Afterwards, Honky brandishes the guitar while Jimmy hits Savage with the megaphone, but Elizabeth gets in the way and Savage just grabs the guitar, chases off Honky, and destroys it to win the feud once and for all. Well that was a kind of a lame substitute for him winning the title, but they had to give Savage SOMETHING here I guess. Nice to see he can fight his own battles for once without having to send his woman back to retrieve Hulk Hogan every time he gets a hangnail.
And now for some video packages! I hope you made a snack because it’s gonna take a while until we get to the next match.
First up, we go back to Wrestlemania III, as Joey Marella is unable properly do a two count. Vince notes that he was “just bracing himself” when he made the first count. SURE HE WAS. Hogan’s lucky he paid off Gorilla’s kid before the match. Then it’s off to the last SNME, as Andre chokes out Hogan like the chump he is. Next, we go to the Royal Rumble for the contract signing, as Andre dumps a table on him and Bruce Pritchard goes “Hey…there’s an idea!” while furiously taking notes.
Meanwhile, Ted Dibiase accuses the referee of being in Hogan’s pocket, but now he’s got Andre training at the finest facilities and makes sure to say “The Million Dollar Man” as many times as possible to get himself over in front of the huge audience.
WWF title: Hulk Hogan v. Andre the Giant
So after four years as champion, it all leads to this for Hulk. Also, we get some amazing technical trickery, as Hogan does a backstage interview wearing the Hogan ’86 belt and emerges from the curtain wearing the famous Winged Eagle belt that lasted for the next decade. Interesting technical note, as they made sure to overdub the live crowd over top of the taped Hogan interview to make it seem like he was there in the arena for this one. An underrated camera shot sees them pan from Andre’s boots up to his head, making him seem larger than life, and that clip ended up getting used in various B-roll footage about Andre for years afterwards. Hogan storms in like the cheater he is and attacks both Dibiase and Virgil, then slugs on Andre but can’t knock him down. So he goes and stomps on Dibiase’s hands like a sore loser, sending money flying. I know for a FACT that Dibiase had earmarked that cash as a donation to the NAACP, so I’m not surprised Hogan would pull that. Hogan tries to go to the top rope and Andre slams him off, but misses a headbutt. So instead he chokes Hogan out from his back like Royce Gracie if Royce somehow absorbed the mass of all the other Gracies into himself and moved to France. He sends Hogan into the corner and stomps Hogan’s hand, and then slams him to get some revenge for Wrestlemania before kicking him in the back and chopping him down. Andre adds a headbutt while Hogan is of course selling his ass off, and Andre puts him out of the ring with a big boot. Virgil throws Hogan back in and Andre goes to another choke with his shoulder strap, but Hogan fights out of it and slugs away in the corner. Hulk goes AERIAL with a middle rope clothesline, but Virgil trips him up to stop the legdrop and takes the ref, as Hogan pins Andre but there’s no one to count. So Hogan yells at the ref, but Andre grabs him from behind and delivers two headbutts and his suplex thing for one, and then the ref ignores Hogan getting his shoulder up and counts the pin anyway at 9:08, making Andre the Giant the WWF champion for the one and only time in his career. *1/2
Hulk of course is like Trump on a Twitter tantrum at 3 am, immediately crying and complaining, while Andre surrenders the “World tag team championship” to Ted Dibiase. And then in the most batshit brilliant plot twist ever shat from the womb of Vince McMahon’s coke binges, we suddenly have two Dave Hebners in the ring. SHOOT ON HIM, HE’S THE IMPOSTER! NO, SHOOT ON HIM, HE’S THE IMPOSTER! We get an epic ref fight and one of them wins, which is somehow a sign that he’s the fake referee. My god, if you can’t count on Earl Hebner to fairly officiate a WWF title match, then what world are we even living in? And of course Hulk tosses poor Earl, who was only trying to feed his family, onto Dibiase and Virgil.
Meanwhile, Hulk Hogan is back in the dressing room with Mean Gene, and he wants to know HOW MUCH MONEY DID THEY SPEND ON THE PLASTIC SURGERY? THEY WERE INDENTICAL!!!!!! You know, for someone who calls everyone “brother”, Hulk is sure missing the obvious explanation.
WWF tag team titles: Strike Force v. The Hart Foundation
We pick this up after the break, with Bret hitting a piledriver on Tito as Vince signs off, but the Network version gives us the epic conclusion 10 seconds later with Tito blocking Bret’s sunset flip attempt and getting the pin to retain the titles.
I mean, what else can you say about this one? It has one of the greatest finishes to a title match ever devised and certainly delivered exactly what was promised to a huge audience. A legendary show, for good reason.