What the World Was Watching: WWF Wrestling Challenge – January 6, 1991

Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan provide commentary from this episode, which took place in West Palm Beach, Florida.  According to thehistoryofwwe.com, the taping happened on December 12.

Opening Non-Title Contest:  The Hart Foundation (WWF Tag Team Champions) defeat Bob Bradley & Tom Bennett when Bret Hart pins Bennett after the Hart Attack at 2:41:

The Hart Foundation, composed of Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart, were enjoying their second reign as WWF tag team champions as 1991 began, having won the titles from Demolition at SummerSlam with the help of the Legion of Doom.  Bret and Neidhart started teaming together in 1985 and after winning the tag team titles for the first time in 1987, the WWF flirted with breaking them up the next year.  That did not work out but in 1989 the company tried it again, but then got cold feet.  The Foundation were meant to serve as transitional champions to get the belts onto the Rockers and then, possibly, Power & Glory but a broken top rope at a taping of The Main Event IV scuttled those plans.  Aside from making a mess of the tag team division, that incident delayed a new singles push for Bret, who started to get more promo time in the leadup to The Royal Rumble and become a more featured part of the team in squashes.

Bradley was a Jimmy Snuka trainee who enjoyed his best run in World Class, where he won the Texas Heavyweight Championship before dropping it to the Dingo Warrior.  He was prominent featured throughout 1990 as an enhancement talent, working long matches on Prime Time Wrestling, and also went under a mask as Battle Kat when Brady Boone quit the company.  Unfortunately for Bradley, he was not fast enough to make the gimmick work, so the WWF killed it off and Bradley went back to being a jobber.

Bennett was a Wisconsin-based talent that worked a handful of squashes for the WWF and AWA in 1990.

In the split screen, Bret and Neidhart do singles promos to emphasize that they are willing to fight each other to win the Rumble.  The crowd loves a double team where Bret slingshots Neidhart from the apron into a splash on Bennett, but Neidhart picks Bennett up before the three count so the Foundation can win with their finisher.

Lord Alfred Hayes’ Special Report recaps Hulk Hogan’s appearance on the Brother Love Show on Superstars.

The Undertaker (w/Brother Love) pins Randy Hunter after the Tombstone at 2:38:

The Undertaker was Mark Calaway, a three-year veteran from World Class, Memphis, and WCW, who the WWF signed in the fall of 1990 after Calaway wrapped up a feud with Lex Luger over the WCW United States Championship.  He made an instant impact as Ted DiBiase’s mystery partner at Survivor Series, eliminating Koko B. Ware and Dusty Rhodes.  The gimmick, styled after a Western undertaker, was a nice balance of cartoon and reality, as the Undertaker donned a little eye makeup to look like he had not slept and moved like a zombie, but also showed little pain in the ring.  The only thing that did not work as well was the pairing with Love, whose shtick was to be more annoying than silent and deadly.

Children in the crowd are in awe of the Undertaker as he makes his entrance, many of whom have their mouths agape as he walks to the ring.  The Undertaker destroys the smaller Hunter with an impressive one handed chokeslam off the ropes and back suplex.  The Old School ropewalk sets up the Tombstone.  After winning, the Undertaker takes some flower pedals from Love and sprinkles them on top of Hunter.

Jake Roberts pins Pete Sanchez after the DDT at 1:25:

A second-generation wrestler, Roberts had spent more than sixteen years in the business by 1991.  After working for Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW), World Class, and Mid-South, Roberts debuted in the WWF in 1986 and worked as a heel, positioned for a while as a potential challenger to Hulk Hogan’s WWF Championship.  However, his excellent promos, ring psychology, and finisher (the DDT) forced the company to turn him face a year later.  Roberts lost his feud with Ted DiBiase in 1990 on-screen, although he won a bigger blowoff at Madison Square Garden and got the better of Bad News Brown on the house show circuit.  His big program, though, was against Rick Martel after Martel blinded him with Arrogance on an episode of the Brother Love Show.  Roberts’ team lost badly at Survivor Series, with Martel’s Visionaries becoming the first team in the history of the even to tally a clean sweep, so Roberts was out for revenge in a singles format as 1991 began.Sanchez, a Pittsburgh-based talent, worked off and on as a WWF enhancement talent since 1983, sometimes appearing as an opening act on house shows and winning a few matches

.In the split screen, Roberts says most people in the Royal Rumble might be wrestling for money but he is in the match to get a piece of Martel.  The camera pans out when Roberts does the DDT and Monsoon yells “Cowabunga!” when Sanchez’s head crashes into the match.  Afterward, Roberts feigns going to the dressing room with Damien before deciding to please the crowd by throwing the snake onto Sanchez.

The Nasty Boys (w/Jimmy Hart) defeat Doug Jones & Scotty Williams when Jerry Sags pins Williams after the Trip to Nastyville at 2:28:

The Nasty Boys, made up of Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags, were newcomers to the WWF after a short stint in WCW, where they feuded with the Steiner Brothers over the United States Tag Team Championship.  They started teaming in 1986, making brief stops in Memphis and Florida before heading to Atlanta.  The Nasties debuted at the end of 1990, winning a squash on Superstars to end the year 1-0.

Williams was a Boris Malenko trainee who started doing squash matches in 1984.  By 1991 his career had taken him to Bill Watts’ Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF), Championship Wrestling from Florida (CWF), the AWA, Jim Crockett Promotions, WCW, and the WWF.

In the split screen, the Nasties and Hart question whether the WWF is ready for them.  Like their Superstars debut, the Nasties display good energy and power.  Williams takes the worst beating, getting avalanched against the buckles by Knobbs to set up the Trip to Nastyville, where Knobbs gives Williams a running powerslam and Sags flies off the top rope with an elbow drop.

Gene Okerlund interviews WWF Champion the Ultimate Warrior, who claims that Randy Savage is running out of hope of regaining the WWF Championship.  He adds that The Royal Rumble will be judgment day for Sergeant Slaughter since the boots Slaughter received from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein will not help him.  The Warrior closes by demanding that Hussein leave Kuwait by January 15.  This was arguably the best promo that the Warrior cut since becoming champion as it was coherent and adequately addressed both feuds he was in at the time.

Sergeant Slaughter (w/General Adnan) beats Raymond Hammer via submission to the Camel Clutch at 1:26:

A trainee of Verne Gagne, Slaughter was a hot WWF act in the early 1980s but departed over a licensing dispute with Vince McMahon when Slaughter wanted to be affiliated with G.I. Joe.  After a stint in the dying days of the AWA, where Slaughter won the America’s Heavyweight Championship and feuded with Larry Zbyszko over the AWA Championship, he returned to the WWF in late August but was positioned as a heel, arguing that WWF fans went soft on communism when they embraced former Bolshevik Nikolai Volkoff.  Slaughter easily dispatched of Volkoff in their feud and was programmed against Hacksaw Jim Duggan at the end of 1990.  Slaughter was winning all of the house show matches in that feud, leading to him getting a WWF title shot against the Ultimate Warrior at The Royal Rumble.

Heenan tries to argue that Slaughter has not betrayed the United States but is trying to show that America has become soft.  Monsoon vehemently disagrees and goes with the “Love it or leave it” argument about Slaughter’s political loyalties.  Slaughter does some token back work to win quickly with the Camel Clutch.  After the bell, he keeps stomping on Hammer’s back.

Okerlund does The Royal Rumble Report.  The Big Bossman reminds Bobby Heenan that he only has two more weeks before facing justice.  In a new Rumble promo, the Texas Tornado says he does not know what to expect but is going to give it his best shot.  Okerlund says that the thirtieth man will be announced at the pay-per-view, implying that the match will have an important mystery entrant.

Non-Title Match:  Mr. Perfect (Intercontinental Champion w/Bobby Heenan) pins Danny Brazil after the Perfectplex at 1:15:

Another second-generation wrestler on the WWF roster, Perfect, also known as Curt Hennig, was working through his second stint with the company after appearing as an undercard worker from 1981-1983.  Perfect rose to prominence in the AWA, where he was a tag team champion with Scott Hall and defeated Nick Bockwinkel for the AWA Championship at SuperClash II in May 1987.  He made his WWF debut a year later and carried an undefeated streak into 1990 where it was broken on television by Brutus Beefcake at WrestleMania VI.  After losing a feud with Hulk Hogan, Perfect entered and won a tournament for the Intercontinental title, which was vacated by the Ultimate Warrior after defeating Hogan for the WWF Championship at WrestleMania.  Perfect was booked in a rematch with Beefcake for SummerSlam but a devastating parasailing accident took Beefcake out of wrestling.  A cocky Perfect and his new manager, Bobby Heenan, decided that it would be wise to accept the Texas Tornado’s challenge in Beefcake’s place and Perfect subsequently lost the title.  However, with the help of Ted DiBiase, Perfect regained the belt in mid-December on Superstars and was spending time on house shows doing return matches with the Tornado and, on occasion, Roddy Piper.

Monsoon puts over the Bodybuilding Lifestyles magazine, encouraging readers to look over the abdominal workout.  After allowing Brazil to slam him, Perfect takes out his knee and finishes shortly thereafter with the Perfectplex to start the year with a perfect win-loss record.

Tune in next week to see Tugboat, Earthquake, the Big Bossman, and Hacksaw Jim Duggan!  And Sergeant Slaughter will appear for a special interview!

The Last Word:  In another show of Royal Rumble hype this one landed with the Ultimate Warrior’s good promo in the middle of the show.  New acts like the Undertaker and the Nasty Boys also looked impressive in their squashes and Jake Roberts was easily the most over act on the broadcast as fans went nuts for everything he did.

Here is a sampling of the first round of house shows that the WWF put on during the first week in December, courtesy of thehistoryofwwe.com:

Worcester, Massachusetts – The Centrum – January 4, 1991:  Jimmy Snuka pinned Greg Valentine…Animal beat Dino Bravo…Virgil pinned Shane Douglas…Tugboat beat Earthquake via disqualification when Dino Bravo interfered…Rick Martel defeated Jake Roberts via count out…WWF Tag Team Champions the Hart Foundation defeated Power & Glory…Jake Roberts won a battle royal, last eliminating Rick Martel.

San Francisco, California – The Cow Palace – January 4, 1991 (6,778):  The Barbarian pinned Jim Brunzell…The Big Bossman beat Bobby Heenan…Sergeant Slaughter pinned Hacksaw Jim Duggan…Demolition beat the Bushwhackers…Saba Simba pinned Buddy Rose…Roddy Piper defeated Intercontinental Champion Mr. Perfect via count out…WWF Champion the Ultimate Warrior defeated Randy Savage.

Landover, Maryland – Capital Centre – January 5, 1991:  Shane Douglas defeated Black Bart…Jimmy Snuka pinned Greg Valentine…WWF Tag Team Champions the Hart Foundation beat Power & Glory…The Texas Tornado pinned Virgil (substituting for Ted DiBiase)…Jake Roberts defeated Rick Martel via disqualification…The Legion of Doom beat the Orient Express & Mr. Fuji in a handicap match…Hulk Hogan & Tugboat defeated Earthquake & Dino Bravo.

Backstage News*:        In a blow to the WWF, FOX decided to cancel plans for a WrestleMania VII special because NBC decided to turn an upcoming Saturday Night’s Main Event into a Friday night Main Event telecast which would have run at the same time as FOX’s special.

*The WWF will work with Genichiro Tenryu’s SWS promotion to run a supershow at the Tokyo Dome on March 31.  The show will be called Wrestle Fest ’91 and the main event will feature Hulk Hogan & Tenryu working against the Legion of Doom.  Booking the match will be difficult because no one will want to job.  Ringside ticket prices for the show are the highest in wrestling history, reportedly set at $370.

*In talent relations news, the WWF is going to bring in Konnan for a tryout because they would like to have a Spanish-speaking star.

*Backstage news provided courtesy of Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer for January 14.