Sunday, April 27, 2014

WWE Network World Tour: WrestleMania V

Not too long ago, a tattooed, straight-edge, rebellious outsider named CM Punk held the WWE Championship for a staggering (by today's standards) 434 days, winning the belt at Survivor Series 2011 and holding it uninterrupted all the way to 2013's Royal Rumble. During this title run he had some thrilling title defenses against the likes of Dolph Ziggler, Chris Jericho, and Daniel Bryan, matches that were more than worthy to close any WWE PPV on which they were broadcast. Unfortunately for Punk and his historic title reign--the longest by any WWE Champ in roughly 25 years--his title defenses were routinely relegated to the undercard in lieu of whatever John Cena--eternal champ in the eyes of Make-A-Wish kids everywhere--was up to that month. Punk may have held the belt, but the clean-cut walking cartoon character superhero (who, in the eyes of many fans, is nowhere near CM Punk's level in terms of overall in-ring ability) was still The Man in the eyes of WWE and their merchandise sale statistics. It's no wonder that in August of 2012, Punk finally turned heel and began venting his frustrations on the mic and in the ring.

It's probably not coincidence that Punk started using Randy "Macho Man" Savage's trademark flying elbow drop in tribute not long after Savage died in May 2011. Punk has long cited Savage as a favorite and an influence, which makes Punk's mid-reign heel turn all the more interesting when paralleled with Savage's run after WrestleMania IV in 1988. Like Punk, Savage won the title at a time when another wholesome, clean-cut superhero, Hulk Hogan (who also was generally accepted by "smart marks" as being less skilled in the ring than the new champ), was the top dog in the yard. Sure, Hogan took time off in the Spring and early Summer after WMIV in order to film his debut as a lead "actor" in No Holds Barred while Savage got some time to establish himself as champ, but by late Summer he was back and ready to join up with Savage and Elizabeth (now the manager of both men) at the inaugural SummerSlam in a tag team match against Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant. From then on, the subtle digs started in the WWF's positioning of the two men--Savage may be holding the strap, but Hulk's still our guy. And it was only a matter of time before the storyline began to reflect what was depicted as Macho Man's long-simmering resentment over the situation.

Whether Savage's frustration was as real-life as Punk's isn't known to me, although stories have been told for years about Hogan's backstage politicking (not that Vince and the WWF were likely in any way interested in moving on from Hogan until the well was beyond dry). But Savage was channeling something during the February 3 edition of The Main Event where, after a tag team match against the Twin Towers (Akeem--more on him below--and The Big Bossman) (never forget), Savage turned on Hogan and delivered the beatdown. See, during the match, Elizabeth got knocked out during an inadvertent collision with Savage, leading Hogan to carry her toward the medical facilities in the back, sobbing and flipping his shit the whole time. He eventually comes back to the ring, but the damage is done--Savage's old jealous streak is reignited and he not only bails on Hogan at the end of the match (which Hulk still wins because, come on, it's Hulk Hogan), but he jumps Hogan in the first aid room, basically accuses him of wanting to bone Liz, and goes on with the rampant ass-kickery. It was almost disturbing as a kid to see Savage so wild-eyed, insane, and rage-filled, although today, hindsight shows me that i've seen a lot worse since.

So the stage was set for WrestleMania V: Hogan would challenge Randy Savage for the title that he only lost a year before so he could go make a movie, looking to make a casualty of Randy Savage's 371-day title reign--a reign that wasn't very long in the context of Hogan's four-year reign that preceded it, but nonetheless, a reign whose length wouldn't be sniffed at for nearly 20 years, only surpassed by John Cena in 2006-2007, and by CM Punk (who would eventually drop the title to another guy who left the company to make movies, The Rock, who would then drop the title at the next ' John Cena. Parallels!).

OK, should we get on with this already?

NOTE: The WWE Network rates this show TV-PG, for "violence."

We open with a corny animated graphic of Savage and Hogan, the Mega-Powers, EXPLODING! while Vince McMahon growls, "The Mega-Powers EXPLODE! here at WrestleMania V!" And instead of the generic hard rock or sax jams from the previous 'Mania intros, we get generic hard rock with cheesy saxophone all over it, because this year's 'Mania is gonna TOP 'EM ALL! I'm assuming. We're back at Trump Plaza for the second year in a row, ostensibly because no one had a better idea for where to host this thing. I'm assuming that after WMIII at the Silverdome, the WWF was afraid that any stadium show would be a let-down, or that perhaps they didn't think it'd sell out again. So, a casino convention hall. Again. Sure. But without Bob Uecker? Ya fucked up this time, WWF!

Gorilla Monsoon storms right out the gate with his classic "you could cut the electricity here with a knife" cliche (a knife with a rubber handle, i assume--we don't wanna get shocked, after all!) and throws it to "America the Beautiful." Who gets the honors this year? Did they get Whitney Houston? Patti LaBelle? How about the WWF Women's Champion, Rockin' Robin? Yes, kids, there is still a WWF women's title in 1989! Not that there's a women's roster built around it or anything, so instead of having the women's champ wrestle, let's throw her in a dress and make her sing. Why not?

Oh, yikes--this is why not. Um, let's just say that Aretha Franklin she's not. At least they keep it short and spare us the traditional workin' class American auto worker montage. Gorilla tries to cover, saying she's getting a nice ovation from the crowd, but Jesse ain't havin' it. "Lemme tell ya somethin', Gorilla--she better keep her day job! She better stick to wrestling!" Saying what we're all thinking, Jesse. Outstanding.

Match 1: King Haku (gesundheit) (w/Bobby "The Brain" Heenan) vs. Hercules

The new King of Wrestling, former Islander Haku, is being carried to ringside on a throne hoisted by four jobbers in tuxedoes. Well, he certainly looks regal. I'm just glad that the cape is finally off Harley Race. Sure, he needed to injure himself in a match and have the crown taken away from him by Heenan to get it done, but sometimes regaining your dignity is a hard road. Speaking of dignity, Hercules is still doing the chains around the neck thing, so that's nice. Heenan, by the way, is wearing royal purple as he leads his King against his former charge, Herc. Haku jumps Herc at the bell while he's dropping his chains into the corner, and we're underway.

Herc quickly takes control and starts in with what pass as his signature power moves--a hiptoss, clothesline, elbowdrop, etc. Gorilla and Jess, meanwhile, discuss the night Heenan has in store for himself--he's guiding "Ravishing" Rick Rude in a match for the Intercontinental Title against The Ultimate Warrior, and he also is stepping in the ring later in the night to take on...sigh...The Red Rooster. So, yeah. Big night ahead, which is admittedly more interesting to talk about than this opening match.

Herc stays in control until he decides to leave the ring and taunt Heenan, which Jess immediately calls out as a stupid move. Sure enough, Haku jumps Herc from the back and it's his turn to dish out the punishment, tossing Herc back into the ring and delivering a pair of backbreakers over his knee. That doesn't score a three-count, so Haku slaps on a bear hug! Oh good, the most exciting move in wrestling! Herc breaks out, but Haku follows out with some martial arts chops and a good old-fashioned "drape the armpits over the middle rope because that's how you choke a dude" move. It goes back and forth a bit more as Hercules fights back and scores another two-count after a powerslam, but Herc goes to the top rope, which is something i've never seen him do, and ends up leaping into a kick to the face, which is why i've never seen him do that. Haku tries to follow up with a diving headbutt (shades of the former King Harley Race!), but whiffs as Herc rolls out of the way. Herc then hits a back suplex and it's the old back-suplex-into-double-pin cliche! This time, it's Herc who lifts his shoulder up at two, and that's all she wrote for the King. An inauspicious start to Bobby Heenan's night, which is about the only reason i can think for them giving Herc a storyline victory over the freshly solo King Haku, whom you'd think they'd want to push over a stale babyface who's been in the company as a singles act for years. Eh, whatever, a passable opening match and Haku goes on to be pushed as a monster heel in WCW for a while as Meng, so he does just fine for himself after this. Meh!

Winner: Hercules via pinfall in 6:57

Interview time! It's Mean Gene Okerlund, and he's with those fresh-faced Loverboy fans, The Rockers! Shawn Michaels is psyched to be there, and Marty Jannetty is psyched that Shawn remembered their weed. Lotsa talk about the Twin Towers trying to catch greased lightning in the ring, tag team specialists, etc. My fiancee Dixie says, "these guys sure know how to cut a promo." My response: "they also know how to cut a line." She also sagely pointed out that the Rockers are wearing similar outfits to the Misfits from Jem and the Holograms, and that really sums up everything you need to know about The Rockers.

"We are The Rockers/Our moves are better/We are The Rockers, The Rockers/We're gonna get...high"

Match 2: The Rockers vs. The Twin Towers (never forget) (w/Slick)

Howard Finkel announces Akeem and the Big Bossman as having a combined weight of 814 pounds, which sounds about right. One of them weighs as much as two Rockers. Akeem, by the way, is The One Man Gang, who was transformed into an African during a bizarre back-alley tribal ritual by his manager, Slick. This actually happened. So this huge round white guy is bouncing around wrestling rings wearing...well.

The Rockers jog down to ringside with their hard-rockin' stock guitar theme music, and we're underway. After a quick chase to the outside where The Rockers run away from the Towers and then scoot back into the ring to simultaneously elbow their opponents on the apron, we settle in to Bossman vs. Michaels. a quick flurry of some high-speed moves and double teams by Shawn and the apron-residing Marty, and Akeem tags in and immediately starts dancing like a giant white cracker asshole. Michaels responds with a moonwalk, ostensibly to pop the crowd, but they don't exactly react. Shawn & Marty start their trademark rapid tags, taking turns wringing Akeem's arms and working on his shoulders. Eventually, though, Akeem tags to the Bossman, who catches Jannetty on a rebound off the ropes, bearhugs him and lets Akeem avalanche into them both, making Marty's chest look even more sunken than it already is. Yikes. The Towers now start rapid tags of their own, taking turns squashing the ever-loving fuck out of Jannetty in myriad ways. Against the ropes? Squash. In the corner? Squash, squash. How is Marty keeping all his pot brownies down?

Eventually Bossman holds Marty for another avalanche by Akeem, and Jannetty ducks out of the way. Collision! See, Bossman would have stayed on the apron had Jannetty stuck between them, but with him gone, there's no one to absorb all that impact, so now Bossman flies to the floor. WRESTLING PHYSICS. Hot tag to Michaels and he unloads on Akeem, waving Marty back in for some double team whips into the turnbuckles (he gave Marty, what, 10 seconds of a breather? Sheesh). But eventually Akeem catches Michaels with a clothesline that knocks Shawn into a headstand before he crumbles to the floor, and it looks siiick.

Knowing they're in desperate straits, the Rockers commence with nonstop double-superkicks and double-dropkicks as Ventura protests all the illegal double-teaming. "They've got five seconds to get out of the ring, Jess," says Monsoon. "It's been over five seconds, Gorilla." "Has it?" Uh, it's been over ten, you big goof. Finally, Jannetty gets knocked out of the ring, and the Bossman catches Michaels flying off the top rope and converts his leap into a crushing spinebuster. A tag to Akeem, a spleen-rupturing big splash, and it's over. Ya know, for what this match was--and it wasn't much--it was at least a showcase for some really nasty-looking squash moves by the Twin Towers.

Winners: The Twin Towers by pinfall in 8:02

Holy shit, Tony Schiavone is in the WWF at this point! He's in the back interviewing "The Million Dollar Man," Ted DiBiase, who's talking shit about Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake. Last year, DiBiase was in the main event, wrestling for the WWF World Title. This year, he's walking around with his made-up "Million Dollar Championship" around his waist and wrestling Hulk Hogan's buddy. I'm trying to decide if this constitutes falling farther than King Kong Bundy from WM2 to WMIII, going from a cage match with Hogan to elbowdropping midgets. At least Ted can always hock that bling around his waist, and he still has a manservant with him. ...OK, i'm still not sure if he wins.

Match 3: "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase (w/Virgil) vs. Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake

DiBiase is making his Spring residence in Palm Beach, Florida, and is the self-proclaimed "Million Dollar Champion." "Who'd he beat?" asks Gorilla. "To get that rich, you haveta beat somebody," says Ventura. Fair enough. Beefcake comes down to the ring to some doofy theme music that i do not recall him ever having. It's like a Cascio demo set to "Boogie Woogie" with Wesley Willis randomly hitting orchestra stings. Donald Trump's in the front row, so Jesse asks if Trump would ever get a haircut from Beefcake. With what hair? It's anybody's guess who's balder: Jesse, Trump, or Hogan.

Monsoon points out that this is a battle of sleeperholds: Brutus' traditional sleeper vs. DiBiase's Million Dollar Dream (which is basically Sgt. Slaughter's cobra clutch, only his makes you fall asleep). Well, now it's time for DiBiase to sell for Beefcake, and no one can fly off a back body-drop like The Million Dollar Man. He goes airborne and lands on his back a few times before taking a powder to the outside. He climbs back in and eats a clothesline out of the ring, flipping a full 360 degrees out to the floor. I'm pretty sure Ted DiBiase's called "The Million Dollar Man" because he makes his opponents look like a million bucks. Beefcake's never looked better, and it's all Ted's fault.

Eventually Virgil trips up Brutus on the ropes, and it's DiBiase's turn to deliver his signature offense. Clotheslines, fist drops, and ...whoops! Attempted a backdrop and got sucked into a Beefcake small package for a two-count. As Beefcake hits a suplex, Gorilla says that the match has gone on way longer than he expected. "Really?" asks Jesse, as incredulous as i am because the match is about 4 minutes in at this point. Monsoon also keeps harping about DiBiase not putting the Million Dollar Title on the line, which we should remember is not a sanctioned WWF championship, dammit. "Why should he? What's Beefcake gonna put up for collateral?" "His reputation!" "Ha! That's worth about two cents!"

Beefcake attempts a sleeperhold and the action spills outside. Both dudes punch each other repeatedly and lose track of the ref's count, and this one's a draw, folks. Beefcake shoves DiBiase into the ringpost and Virgil tries to jump him from behind, but Beefcake catches him in the act and starts chasing him around the ring. Uh, Beefcake? Virgil has no hair to cut, dude. You gain nothing from this. He does eventually catch Virgil in the sleeper, and then decks DiBiase when he tries to bail out his slave servant. Brutus goes for the hedge clippers and raises his hand in victory as the heels bail for the aisle. The ref angrily tells Beefcake that he is NOT the winner, but Brutus dances around anyway. This makes two 'Mania's in a row where the dude fails to pin a guy, but runs around acting like he won a title or something. Beefcake, you CANNOT win the Million Dollar Championship on a double-countout! Or any result! Because it's not a title! Someone explain to Beefcake how winning and losing works. I think hanging out with Hulk Hogan has convinced him that all you have to do is walk into the ring as a babyface, and you win.

Winner: Double-countout at ...10:01? Bullshit, Wikipedia. I am calling bullshit on the time of the match.

Well, it's been a few years since Lord Alfred Hayes has tried interviewing anyone at a WrestleMania, but he still sucks balls at it. He's at the 'Mania brunch, where Butch and Luke, the Bushwhackers, are eating a bunch of scrambled eggs and talking with their mouths full while Hayes asks them how they plan to defeat the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers. See, it's funny because they're slobs. 

Match 4: The Bushwhackers (Luke & Butch) vs. The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers (w/Jimmy Hart)

OK, here's the deal with the Bushwhackers: when they arrived in the WWF i was psyched for about two seconds because i had seen photos of these guys in all the old newsprint wrestling mags like Pro Wrestling Illustrated. They were called The Sheepherders and every photo i saw of them either had them covered in their own blood, or gnawing someone else open until they were gushing the Crimson Mask. In the kid-friendly WWF, the nastiest thing they did was bite their opponents in the ass and assume the Hacksaw Jim Duggan booger-eating role in the company. Hey, awesome. Meanwhile, the Rougeaus have started their smarmy "we insincerely love the US of A! No, really!" heel gimmick, which didn't disguise the fact that they still looked like huge nerds.

The match opens up with the Bushwhackers whipping both Rougeaus from opposite corners into the middle of the ring, where they end up smooshing Jimmy Hart. "Now, why do so many people enjoy beating up poor Jimmy?" asks Jesse. "Because he's a pain in the you-know-what." "No, it's because he's small and there's bullies." Be a star, Gorilla. They continue to bicker about the whole Rougeaus living-in-America thing, and it's more entertaining than anything happening in the ring. Gorilla says they're not really American even though they just moved into the country, and Jess calls bullshit. "Didn't your parents come here from a foreign country?" "I was born here, Jess! The Rougeaus were not born here!" "Oh, so you're saying tear down the Statue of Liberty?" Eventually Gorilla gets flustered and blurts out a "we already have all the tired and poor!" Wait, what?!? Cool, cancel Band Aid II!

We're several minutes into this match, and the only interesting thing i've seen in the ring has been Raymond Rougeau picking up Luke for a body slam, and Luke straight up rubbing Raymond's dick while upside down. Super-obviously copping a feel on the Rougeau brother with a mustache. Look, i've never denied that pro wrestling has certain undertones. Oh, ok, here we go: the Rougeaus started celebrating in the ring, and the Bushwhackers catch them with a running battering ram headbutt and send one of the Rougeaus out of the ring, finishing up the other with a double stomach-breaker and covering him for the pinfall and the win. The fans go crazy because their suffering is at an end! The Bushwhackers celebrate at ringside by licking each other's bald spots, and i don't want to be a wrestling fan anymore.

Winners: The Bushwhackers via pinfall at 9:10

We cut to Sean Mooney (who is now a news anchor in Tucson. Good for him! Dude landed on his feet pretty well outside the rasslin' biz) who is in the entrance aisle trying to talk to a fan as the Bushwhackers are making their exit. Well, this won't end well, obviously. The Bushwhackers attack Sean with their own tongues and lick the entirety of his face and head. "You ever had a pet dog that really loved you?" asks Sean. Man, i can't imagine why he ever went into newscasting.

Match 5: "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig vs. The Blue Blazer

Holy crap, Hennig doesn't even have entrance music yet! This is super early in Curt's WWF run, apparently. However, The Blue Blazer, aka Owen Hart, has some really terrible low-rent Roland keyboard laser blast music accompanying him to ringside. While i'm really looking forward to seeing how this match has aged, anyone who knows anything about wrestling's history knows why i'm very uncomfortable seeing Owen in his Blue Blazer getup.

Well, these guys only have about five minutes to work, which is too bad, because these dudes could go for twenty or thirty, easily. Gorilla points out that Jesse was talking in the backstage area about how he has an idea of who the Blue Blazer really is. "Not really yet. I have an idea, but i don't like to state facts until i know they're facts." Pssst! Jesse! It's Owen Hart! It's ok, we know now! 

There's an early battle of hiptosses before Hennig goes for one and the Blazer reverses it, sending Mr. Perfect out of the ring with a standing dropkick. Back into the ring and they slow it down again with an armbar into the corner, but Owen attempts another hiptoss, going through a slightly convoluted series of flips to fluster Perfect into taking it. The crowd loves it, because they so very rarely see actual wrestling in a WWF wrestling ring that even these midtempo sequences are novel. Another standing dropkick and a backbreaker result in a one-count for Owen, and the announcers compliment Perfect for not screwing around to wait for two. The Blazer bodyslams Perfect and climbs to the top, but his attempt at a splash is thwarted by Hennig's dastardly knees! Perfect locks in a chinlock and Jesse uses it as an opening to say hello to his four biggest fans in Minneapolis: Terry, Tyrell, Jade & Jeremiah. The first three are his wife & kids; not sure who the fourth is, but damn, that's cute. Anyway, the Blazer puts together a nice little sequence ending in a belly-to-belly suplex into a two-count, and these two are kicking it into second gear now. Perfect reverses an irish whip, sending Owen into a turnbuckle, but Owen flips over him and gets a crucifix for a close two-count! The audience almost bought that one, and the Blazer gets into the ref's face a bit to question the speed of the count. Aaaand, that's his fatal mistake. He turns around right into a wicked forearm shot from Perfect, and after the "Perfectplex" cradle suplex, Hennig scores the pin, keeping his WWF record Absolutely Perfect. I'd call this a solid 'B' effort from these guys, considering how little time they had to work. I'll have to look around to see if Owen and Hennig ever got another chance to work a longer match in the WWF, but i don't remember them ever crossing paths again. Bummer!

Winner: "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig via clean pinfall in 5:38

And now we're at the part of the show where Howard Finkel introduces Jesse Ventura to the audience, giving Jesse a chance to bask in the fan adulation and remind everyone that, yep, he used to be a badass heel and still thinks he's hot shit. This is sort of like a high school graduate visiting his old school one too many times. How can we miss you, Jesse, if you don't go away? Well, i mean, don't actually go away--just stop it with the goofy posing, man. Agent Orange bit you in the ass. Accept it. 

Why the hell is Lord Alfred Hayes at a 5K run on the boardwalk? Oh, ok, i see--Mr. Fuji shows up in full Oddjob attire, complete with cane, to show the world that he's still in good physical shape (he was a three-time WWF tag champ in his day). He's actually wrestling in the tag title match where Demolition, Fuji's former team, will defend their belts against his new charges, The Powers of Pain. See, Fuji dumped the champs for the Warlord & Barbarian back at Survivor Series in November, thinking the Powers of Pain were the sure bet to take the belts off Ax & Smash (who have held them on an uninterrupted run since last year's 'Mania). Anyway, we can get into all of this when the match starts; for now, we get to see Fuji jump the gun at the start of the race and immediately get overtaken by all of the actual runners in the 5K. Maybe try running in something that breathes a little more, Fuji?

Oh, hey, we cut to the end of the race and see Fuji cross the finish line! Well, obviously he ran the entire race; i mean, they wouldn't just let him run the first 25 feet and cut the cameras if he was going to stop right away. Right? Besides, Lord Al Hayes says he saw Fuji run the entire race, and it's not like he'd just make up bullshit to toe the company line.

Holy shit! RUN DMC IS IN THE RING. RUN DMC IS IN THE WRESTLEMANIA RING. HOW DID I FORGET ABOUT THIS. They're about to perform the "WrestleMania Rap." "Just when ya think you've seen it all/Run DMC, WrestleMania, y'all." I was sort of hoping that maybe there would be actual references to the matches, but i guess maybe that was expecting too much. "A little of that went a long way with me, Jess, but you seemed really into that!" "I'll tell ya, i really liked that!" And once again, Jesse proves to be the far hipper of this broadcast duo (although, after actually watching that performance, i now know why i forgot about it).

So hey! It's time for the actual title match. The year-long reign of Demolition is in jeopardy as they defend in a handicap match (ostensibly so they can get their hands on the manager that dropped them like a leather-clad, spikey hot potato): 

Match 6: Demoliton (Ax & Smash)(c) vs. The Powers of Pain (Warlord & Barbarian w/Mr. Fuji) for the WWF World Tag Team Championship

The Powers of Pain were basically put together in the Jim Crockett portion of the NWA as an evil version of the Road Warriors, complete with one dude in a mohawk and one dude sporting the double-mohawk-bald-head combo that Road Warrior Hawk made famous. Wikipedia tells me that they actually were holding the NWA World Six-Man Tag Titles (can you think of a more pointless concept for a title? I mean, other than Dean Ambrose's current US belt) with Ivan Koloff before they jumped ship for the WWF, where (get this) they were introduced as mercenaries hired by Tito Santana to help them get revenge on Demolition for costing Strike Force the tag titles and putting Rick Martel out of action. try to get revenge on the tag team that took your belts away by...bringing in a new team that's bigger than you and will likely get pushed right into a tag title program with the company's other group of Road Warrior ripoff characters? That's really smart, Tito! No wonder Martel turns on you later in the show (uh...spoiler alert?).

Mean Gene is backstage with the champs, who are yelling and screaming about getting revenge against "Fooj the Stooge," who so unceremoniously screwed them over back at Survivor Series (as the recap just showed us). Ya know, in retrospect Smash just isn't very scary when you take into consideration 1) his little hairlip mustache and 2) the fact that he eventually gets repackaged as "Repo Man" (a character far less punk rock than Smash, i assure you). I can see why Road Warrior fans saw these two as complete clowns. Ax still looks kinda badass, though. He won't stop shutting up about "Fooj the Stooge," though. "Fooj the Stooge" this, "Fooj the Stooge" that. Ax must have come up with that nickname himself, because he's really proud of it.

The Powers of Pain are in the ring--man, it's weird going back to an era when some wrestlers didn't have entrance music--and there's a hilarious technical mishap when Finkel announces the Powers, then right before he announces Fuji's name, the guys in the back think he's going to introduce Demolition and start up their music. The audience pops, but the music cuts awkwardly as Finkel announces The Powers' manager. Heh, whoops. 

And here come the champs! Hailing from Parts Unknown (because wrestlers with face paint are from THE FUTURE, or Post-Apocalyptic Australia, or whatever), where Rick Derringer routinely sells out the Thunderdome when he comes to town. Jesse starts talking about what great shape Fuji looks to be in after having run that 5K, and Monsoon immediately shits all over it, claiming Fuji in fact did fake the whole thing. Why, i never. 

Warlord stars against Ax--"the two powerhouses," Gorilla hilariously says before correcting himself with a "they're ALL powerhouses" with Jesse's help--and we get some signature offense early on from Demolition as they bend Warlord over and both relentlessly axehandle his back. Ya know, Demolition were never much for scientific wrestling, but that simultaneous double-axehandle to the back they always did looked really friggin' cool. Talk about playing to your strengths--no, we're not going to deliver many dropkicks, but we'll beat you into the fuckin' ground. Cool. 

The first half of this match is all Demolition--quick tags into more axehandles and double-elbow shots. It's funny how when it's tag team wrestling, even the most rudimentary double-teams can still look kinda cool (especially when delivered by facepaint-clad dystopian cosplayers, i suppose). But when Ax goes after Fuji on the apron, the Barbarian catches him with a big boot and the Powers get to take control. Fuji tags in and he gets in some semi-legit offense with some chops and a falling headbutt into Ax's crotch before tagging out to the Barbarian, leading Gorilla to question Fuji's ability since he wasn't in there when Ax & Smash were fresher. Jeez, who's heeling on whom, here? 

But the three-man team gets overconfident, as Barbarian slams Ax and tags Fuji, who tries a top rope dive and misses as Ax rolls out of the way. Well, that was just stupid, Fuji. I get you were a tag champion once, but you're old and busted now, and this isn't an anime flick where the old wizened sensei can still bring the quickness. Warlord gets the tag, though, and stops Ax momentarily before Smash finally gets the hot tag and starts to clean house. Axehandles and clotheslines, aisle 6 at the Parts Unknown Hardware Hank! Eventually, though, it becomes your typical tag-team fracas and the ref is distracted while the Warlord holds Smash while Fuji digs into his tights for a bag of salt. He tosses the salt but Smash ducks and the Warlord is blinded! Oh no! Suddenly Fuji is in the opposing corner and at the mercy of Demolition. "Now there's a problem," Jesse hilariously points out. Smash props Fuji up on his bent knee for the classic Demolition finisher, the "Demolition Decapitation," where Ax dives off the second turnbuckle with an elbow in the opponent's neck while Smash holds him in place. Normally, it looks pretty badass; here, Ax makes contact with Smash's arm and it looks like shit. Total botch job, but Fuji stays down and does the honors. Demoliton retains and goes on to continue the longest WWF tag title reign in company history, while the Warlord is ultimately remembered as the guy who got eliminated from a Royal Rumble in three seconds. Haha, Hawk Junior. 

Winners: Demolition via pinfall in 8:20 

Tony Schiavone is by the Macho Man's dressing room in an attempt to get an interview with His Madness before the big main event. He pushes the door open slightly and Savage basically assaults the cameraman. "I SAID NO INTERVIEWS!" as the camera crashes to the floor. Savage violently paces in and out of the shot and yells, "I'm ready for you, Hulk Hogan!" Goodness, he is so unhinged! Ya know, for a dude who spent all of 1988 as the most popular wrestler in the company (or perhaps, more realistically, second-most popular), it's interesting to note that he was a babyface at a WrestleMania only, like, four times (and one of those was as a commentator).

Match 7: Dino Bravo (w/Frenchy Martin) vs. "Rugged" Ronnie Garvin

Oh, Ronnie Garvin. Pro Wrestling Illustrated used to pimp you as a legit badass due to your NWA World Title win over Ric Flair in 1987, so i was thrilled to see you debut in the WWF, only to never really amount to much of anything other than the dude who created the Garvin Stomp for Randy Orton to use decades later. Sigh. Someday i'll research your NWA history and see all the truly brilliant matches you likely worked, but until then, i'm stuck with you wrestling Dino Effing Bravo. I do appreciate your no-nonsense intro, though--no music, already in the ring, with a towel over your shoulders. "Rugged" indeed. Who needs some fey stock corporate video music to play you to the ring? Not Ronnie Garvin, that's for sure!

But first, for some reason Howard Finkel is announcing a special appearance from Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka! Um, why is this happening after the participants in the next match were announced? As Jesse questions whether he's still got it, he climbs into the ring, flashes an "I love you" hand sign at the fans, and immediately bails. I assume this is to announce that he's returning to in-ring competition or something? Whatever, let's get to two blond shirtless dudes punching each other.

Garvin gets jumped early while his back is turned, trying to figure out where he's going to throw his towel into the crowd. Not much to report after that; Bravo beats on Garvin with a bunch of power moves; Garvin fights back and attempts a pin after nearly every move he tries; Bravo eventually connects with a sidewalk slam and pins Garvin's shoulders to the mat. Ronnie doesn't even get a chance to do the Garvin stomp; he just gets a few "hands of stone" punches in that don't amount to too much. Hey, Jim Crockett! Check out your former champ! We just booked him in a pointless loss against a perennial mid-carder! How do ya like them apples? (Although, really, if anyone in the world extrapolated from this that Dino Bravo could by proxy defeat Ric Flair, i'll eat my hat.) Meh, says i. Meh!

Winner: Dino Bravo via pinfall in 3:06

Oh, wait, here's the Garvin Stomp--on Frenchy Martin after Garvin knocks Bravo out of the ring. Jesse heels all over Garvin, calling him a sore loser, and i can't say i disagree. Gorilla Monsoon basically says that Frenchy Martin's devious and that he probably had it coming. Jesus Christ, talk about victim blaming, Monsoon. Did Martin interfere in the match? No! Bravo won clean and Garvin cheap-shotted his way to some cheap payback. Who's the heel here, anyway? Oh, the guy who has the temerity to wave a Quebec flag around in an American wrestling ring. Oooh, scandal.

Seriously, can i rant here for a moment? The heel/babyface politics of the 1980s WWF are really messed up here and there. For all the criticism Jim Ross has been throwing lately at the current WWE for not utilizing the classic "chickenshit heel" cheat-to-win template, it's not like the WWF had such clearly-defined roles in the 80s. Remember Hogan taking advantage of outside interference in the main event of WrestleMania I, not to mention the rampant eye rakes he utilizes in practically every match? I mean, not every heel can be as pure a coward as The Honky Tonk Man, because that would be boring, but here we have the supposed "heel," Dino Bravo, getting a clean pin, and Ronnie Garvin still gets some cheers for jumping him after the match, just because the dude talks shit about the U.S. of A. Does this say something about larger-scale American culture in general? I dunno, you tell me. 

Match 8: The Brain Busters (Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson w/Bobby "The Brain" Heenan) vs. Strike Force (Tito Santana & Rick Martel)

Speaking of former Jim Crockett wrestlers getting booked in the WWF, now we're talkin'. Vince and the WWF writers put the former NWA World Tag Champs and Four Horsemen members/Ric Flair buddies with Bobby "The Brain" Heenan as their manager, and were pushed as far as tag champs could go, actually ending the year-plus reign of Demolition a few months after this show. Here, they're taking on the former tag champs, Strike Force, who reformed specifically for this show after Martel had been sidelined with an storyline injury for a good chunk of 1988. 

What a great little WWF-vs.-NWA metaphor we have going on in this match: you've got the tanned, well-built, muscular pretty-boy babyfaces in Tito Santana and Rick Martel, vs. a pair of frumpy, hard-working tough guys in Blanchard and Anderson. Hell, Arn's balding and in no way has a prototypical WWF appearance. 

Oh, man, this match is a thing of beauty. We establish the Brain Busters' tag team continuity early on as Blanchard gets the early collar-and-elbow tieup advantage by pushing Martel into the ropes and a well-placed knee by Anderson on the apron. They begin a beatdown in the corner, only to have Martel fire back by knocking both guys in the head in rapid succession. He's looking fired up and stoked to be back with his tag partner! Lefts and rights and Anderson runs into the ring, so Santana meets him and Strike Force knocks the Busters out of the ring with a pair of dropkicks. Meanwhile, the announcers hammer home the Heenan storylines of the night, as mentioned in the opening match: trying for his first title with Rick Rude, having to wrestle the (sigh) Red Rooster. Jesse interestingly says Heenan's never had as good an opportunity to manage a champion at a WrestleMania as he does tonight. Huh, i guess hindsight is 20/20 when it comes to Andre/Hogan. Jesse moves on to questioning Strike Force's continuity, saying the have to be rusty after not having teamed together for several months. Meanwhile, Arn Anderson's working a nice leg scissors bearhug on Martel that he starts to reverse and turn over into a Boston Crab, only to have Tully Blanchard thumb him in the eye and tag in. Can't do those submission moves so close to your opponents' corner, you know. 

Tully tags in but is met immediately by Tito Santana, who has also tagged in and stuns him with a bulldog and then slaps on the figure-four. Anderson runs in immediately to break it up, and Martel meets him with a figure-four of his own! Great high-speed action sequences here as the Brain Busters are showing loads of continuity and tag-team wrestling smarts, always looking to bail out their partner in times of peril. Another great moment where the referee yells at Martel to break his hold, as he's not the legal man, and Anderson takes the opportunity to reach over and rake Tito's eyes, causing him to break the hold on the actual legal member of their team, Blanchard. Awesome in-ring heel psychology that leads to more action as Tully tries a double-leg underhook pin on Tito, who bridges out of it with his legs and head and stands Tully into a backslide pin attempt of his own, which wows the crowd--audible "ooohs" as Tito shows off his strength. Anderson once again makes the save on the two-count, though, and again we see what a well-oiled machine the Brain Busters are. Meanwhile, as the ref forces Anderson out of the ring, Santana goes for the flying forearm on Tully, only to have his intended target duck, resulting in a collision with Rick Martel, who goes crashing to ringside! Jesse's speculation about Strike Force's rustiness proves to be on target (seriously--always trust the heel's analysis on commentary. ALWAYS. Especially when it's Jesse Ventura). 

The Brain Busters go on the offense as Blanchard hits a dropkick and tags out to Arn, who gets in some offense and tags out himself. Tully goes for an Irish Whip and gets reversed into a collison with Arn, but instead of arguing about it like heels normally would, Tully merely tags out to Arn, who catches Tito before he can tag to Martel. Tito manages a sunset flip on Arn, who hilariously begins to flail around for a tag, finding Tully just as he hits the mat. Jesse says that Heenan has them honed into well-oiled machinery as Arn puts a chinlock on Tito, then climbs the ropes to hit a flying maneuver. However, Tito catches Arn on the top turnbuckle and throws him to the mat, starting the babyface rally the fans have been waiting for! This is the classic "babyface fights back after a solid beatdown and gets a hot tag to his partner, who begins to clean house," which usually leads directly to the four-way schmoz that always precedes the end of this sort of undercard tag match. BUT! As Arn tags out to Tully, Blanchard waits a little while in the corner as Tito crawls toward Martel, giving Strike Force a little added time to play out the turning point of the match: Martel, still selling the effects of the flying forearm from minutes ago, says "nuts to this" and avoids tagging his partner, eventually bailing from ringside and leaving Tito to his doom! The crowd boos their disapproval at Martel as Jesse crows. "I told you, Gorilla Monsoon, that these guys hadn't teamed up in too long! Tito Santana is now involved in a handicap match!" 

Arn's got Tito against the ropes, clawing at his face and taunting him with "where's your partner?" Arn hits his trademark spinebuster (which never gets old), and the heels continue to work over the babyface. They smartly give Tito one last, brief attempt at a comeback to let the fans think that maybe he'll go over strong by beating the Brain Busters by himself, but an attempted monkeyflip out of the corner is thwarted as Arn holds Tully in place in the corner, leaving Santana to crash to the mat alone. Tully struts to the corner and Arn sets up the spike piledriver, a move you will never see in today's WWE. Arn puts Tito in position for a traditional sit-down piledriver (which is banned today as it led to too many neck injuries in the 1990s--just ask Steve Austin), and Blanchard jumps off the second turnbuckle, pushing down on Tito's feet and driving his head into the mat with even more force than a standard piledriver. Goddamn, it still looks brutal today. 1, 2, 3, and the former NWA World Tag Champs have defeated the former WWF tag champs cleanly, but with a one-man advantage, cementing their role as badass, tough guy heels that will still rely on shortcuts to win. The dirtiest players in the WWF, perhaps?

In the desert of scientific wrestling that is the Hulk Hogan-era WWF, this match, which in the grand scheme of things ranks as Very Good, stands out as a near-classic by comparison to the garbage surrounding it. Almost everything about the match is executed flawlessly--lots of fast action and little elements (like the Brain Busters' flawless tag team continuity in contrast to the critical collision by the Strike Force members) that set up the key story of Rick Martel's heel turn and abandonment of his partner, perennial crowd favorite Tito Santana. If i were teaching a pair of young tag teams how to tell a story in the ring, this would be a textbook example. Revisiting this match was a real treat.

Winners: The Brain Busters via pinfall in 9:17

Mean Gene is in the backstage area furiously admonishing Rick Martel. "You left Tito Santana high and dry! You abandoned your tag team partner!" Martel is heated, stumbling over his words (which gives the whole thing some realism, actually) and claiming that he's carried Tito on his coattails for too long. "You're lucky i just walked away! I could have done a lot worse to you, Tito Santana!" Mean Gene is as outraged as i've ever seen him, and when he throws it back to Gorilla and Jesse, they spend additional minuted breaking down what just happened. Man, they really went all-in on this Rick Martel heel turn, didn't they? It may be enough for me to rethink my decades-old opinion that "The Model" Rick Martel was an awful, stupid, not-in-any-way-good gimmick (Tyler Breeze is already twice the vain, chickenshit male model that Rick Martel ever was, and he's still only in NXT). We'll see how he comes across at the next 'Mania or two.

Interview Segment: Piper's Pit with special guest Morton Downey, Jr.

Oh, holy shit, here we go. We'll see if this holds up at all. I can't remember what the setup was for this segment, but listing the participants pretty much tells the whole story, doesn't it? But before "Rowdy" Roddy Piper makes his first in-ring appearance at a WWF Pay-Per-View since his "retirement" match against Adrian Adonis in the Silverdome, we get to deal with Brother Love coming down to ringside after a fakeout introduction, wearing a kilt and heading to the ring with Piper's music. Hey, remember Brother Love? Bruce Prichard as a red-faced evangelist that served no purpose other than to host an interview show that constantly served as a sneak-attack trap for any babyface dumb enough to appear on it? Holy fucking shit, look at this asshole:


Son of a bitch, i had forgotten about this guy. Can you believe this fool was actually the first manager of the Undertaker? Bruce Prichard, my hat is off to you--you created a character that to this day, i still despise with a high-octane, richly violent hatred that is normally left for real TV preachers to project onto(into) the prostitutes they hire. The WWF really hit a home run with this motherfucker, because even seeing and hearing him now makes me angry. His fake "interview" with an imaginary "Rodney" Piper is about as musically and lyrically pleasing to the ear as Billy Corgan singing with a hangover after a night of Jager bombs laced with razor blades. Fuck this, can i scan forward to the part where Hot Rod kicks his ass? No? great. Oh, thank god, finally he shuts up long enough for Howard Finkel to introduce Morton Downey Jr. This is about the only situation in which seeing Morton Fucking Downey arrive on the scene actually classes up the joint, even with him smoking indoors (which isn't as much a throwback as you'd think, since this show is taking place in a casino, and you can still smoke in the Native American ones to this day).

"Morton Downey Junior, I LOOOOOOVE YEW. But that doesn't mean i have to LIIIKE yew." "Well, let me tell you somethin' Brother Loooove--any man wearing a skirt i don't WANT to love me." Oh good, gay panic rearing its ugly head once again in a WWF ring. Oy, this is like asking Michael Savage to debate the "pro" side of the gay marriage debate with Pat Robertson in Forensics class. 

FINALLY Roddy Piper makes his way to ringside, all business but smirking the knowing smirk of someone who realizes that the trash needs to be taken out. Piper makes fun of Brother Love's "child-bearing" hips and his "Betty Davis knees" while Morton Downey keeps flipping cigarettes and some dude at ringside yells "RIP HIS SKIRT OFF!" At some point, after Piper threatens to bite Brother Love's face off if he peeks under his kilt, he turns his attention toward Downey, who proceeds to start blowing smoke in Piper's face and implying that Roddy's a transvestite, which passes as a derogatory remark in 1989. I'd love for Morton Downey, Jr. to engage in a battle of wits with Eddie Izzard, although that'd be akin to Stephen Hawking debating creationism with a German Shepherd. (Also there's the small issue of Downey dying from lung cancer in 2001, which makes this whole interview segment darkly hilarious.)

Anyway, after Piper gets smoked blown in his face about three times and warns Downey each time to not fucking do that, Downey gives him a long, slow exhale right in the kisser and says "that's good for ya! It's healthy! You can live as long as i have!" (To be fair, Piper is 60 and Downey died at 68, so we'll see how hilarious that line becomes sometime in the next eight years.) Piper tells Downey that he's changed his mind and would actually like to light up, and when Downey turns around to light one up for Piper, Roddy catches him with a fire extinguisher, of course. He does get bonus points for blowing the extinguisher up Downey's crotch while he was writhing on the ground, though.

I can't find an animated gif of Piper blowing CO2 up Downey's balls, so this will have to suffice.

Piper leaves to a thunderous ovation as the audience roars their approval for an overly-long, tedious bit that took about 10 minutes too long to get to the whole Downey-gets-extinguished punchline. If that had been about the length of Indiana Jones vs. the Arab swordsman, it would have been twice as funny and over with for the last nine minutes. Ah well. Hey Mean Gene, tell us about Hulk Hogan's new movie.

Holy crap, was Stan Hansen in this fucking movie? (Google check: yes, as "Neanderthal.") We're treated to a montage of shitty action, shitty acting, and shitty shit as Hulk Hogan IS "Rip!" We can plainly see that Hogan will be displaying incredible range in this film, as he will be portraying a Hogan-like wrestler who wears powder blue instead of red and yellow. (And Vanilla Ice sampled "Under Pressure," but it wasn't the same bass line.) And yep, apparently Stan Hansen gets soaked in a toilet or some shit. That's what being a thorn in the side of Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund gets you in the Hulk Hogan era. Can we get back to some wrestling now?

Nope--Sean Mooney has to interview Donald Trump first. For fuck's sake, are the bathroom lines at Trump Plaza too long to get the seats filled for the next match? Well, we at least get this gem when Mooney throws it back to the booth: Jesse Ventura EXPLODING at Hulk Hogan for daring to invade his Hollywood turf. "HOW DARE YOU, HOGAN! You know, i understand why he's doing it, Monsoon--because he's gonna lose to the Macho Man tonight, and afterward, he won't have a job! Well, Hogan, when you lose and come out to Hollywood, i'll give you a job--YOU CAN DRIVE MY LIMO!" Jesse storms off in a huff, and it's fucking amazing. Fear not, Jesse--you have Predator and The Running Man on your resume, and Hogan has Mr. Nanny and Santa With Muscles. (Notice Jesse doesn't go off on Piper for making They Live, as Jesse may not be so sure of how his movies measure up to that slice of classic kickass b-movie subversion.)

Geez, how long of an intermission do they need? We now get a recap of the history of the Mega-Powers over the last year, from WrestleMania IV to SummerSlam '88 (where the babyfaces won the main event due to Elizabeth stripping off her skirt and distracting Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant...classic moment, such as it was) to Survivor Series to the attack on Hogan at the Main Event. And now we get Mean Gene holding the mic for Hulk Hogan as he yells full-boar about his upcoming match. "As the Mega-Powers rose, the Mania was a little ahead of the Madness, but that was OK, because i thought the Macho Man was on my side." Oh, boy, here we go. Savage doesn't believe in saying his prayers, training and eating his vitamins, and i so don't care about them that i can't even get them in the right order. Oh, Jesus, and now Hogan's talking about the foundation of Trump Plaza and opening a crack in the earth again. Didn't we go over this last year? Bored now.

Match 9: Andre the Giant (w/Bobby Heenan) vs. Jake "The Snake" Roberts -- Big John Studd, special guest referee

OOOOOH, now i get why they had such a long intermission. The last match was so good that they had to stretch the break as long as possible to protect the aging Andre's image. Big John Studd walks to ringside and Gorilla asks where a guy who stands 6'10" and weighs 385 pounds gets weighed. "Well, where did you go to get weighed, Monsoon?" "Oh, i went to the truck stop."

NOTE: FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS ANGLE, ANDRE THE GIANT IS DEATHLY AFRAID OF SNAKES. Sure, this wasn't mentioned ever in Andre's history before they decided to put him in a program with Jake Roberts, but what the heck, we'll go with it. Andre and John Studd are jawing in the ring as Jake makes his way down. "Hey, remember that terrible body slam challenge we had at WrestleMania I?" "I'm trying to forget it, and you should too, Andre. What the fuck." 

The bell rings and Andre immediately rams Jake's head into a turnbuckle with no turnbuckle pad. Studd hasn't noticed but Gorilla and Jesse are flipping their shit. "This is over already, Monsoon. I don't think Jake can recover from that." "Well, do you remember the story of David & Goliath?" "Yeah, but David used a foreign object." Jake escapes a choke from Andre and punches the Giant a few times in the gut, then dives immediately for the sack o' snake because ANDRE IS DEATHLY AFRAID OF SNAKES. Andre's hitting all his trademark offense--punch, choke, butt-squash in the corner--and Studd is doing his best to make sure Andre breaks his chokes before the five-count. Jake eventually fights back, bouncing off the ropes and clotheslining Andre into a trademark Andre-falls-into-the-ropes-and-gets-tied-up, which is a chance for Jake to threaten bringing Damien into the mix. Jesse protests loudly, and Gorilla just completely botches the whole face/heel thing. "He needs some sort of unfair advantage against Andre!" Jesse: "Oh, so you admit it then! You admit that Jake can't compete on an equal level with Andre!" "He's got Heenan at ringside! That's an unfair advantage!" "Bobby hasn't gotten involved in the match at all!" Point again to Ventura. Sheesh, Monsoon, stop being such a patsy for the good guys. "You know, i used to like working with you, Monsoon, but now you're almost worse than McMahon!"

Jake gets some offense in when he gets backed into a corner but manages to stun the Giant with a kneelift, and he manages to conk Andre with the padless turnbuckle, but Andre recovers and chops Jake out of the ring. Studd starts to argue with Andre after the Giants knocks Roberts off the apron, ostensibly to scold him for not giving Jake a chance to get back in. And with the special guest referee's attention on Andre, Jake grabs the sack-o-Damien and heads for the ring steps, where he is then met by Studd, who now sees what's happening and blocks Jake's path. Andre then kicks Studd in the back for no discernible reason other than he doesn't like Studd's face, which leads to an argument where Studd threatens to disqualify the Giant. And with his back turned again, Ted DiBiase and Virgil arrive at ringside, jump Roberts, and grab Damien and make off to the locker room area with him! Man, Big John Studd is a shit referee, y'all. 

Jake runs after DiBiase and gets the snake back, while Andre grabs Studd and headbutts and chokes him. Well, i suppose that's gonna cost Andre the match. Jake unleashes his snake in the ring (heh) and Andre makes a hasty retreat, because he is DEATHLY AFRAID OF SNAKES, I GUESS. The bell rings and Jake's hand is raised in victory. Well, good for him. Glad we got to the bottom of that turnbuckle pad storyline, too.

Winner: Jake "The Snake" Roberts via DQ in 9:44

Gorilla and Jesse argue about why Andre was disqualified. Monsoon: "For outside interference." "From who?" "From the Million Dollar Man being at ringside!" Uh, you guys don't think it could have been because he was viciously assaulting the referee? Maybe? Were you not briefed on this before the show?

Sean Mooney is in the cheap seats interviewing a fan yelling "Jake's the best!" This is only notable because Mooney calls the upper balcony the "Bob Uecker Seats." Good man.

Tony Schiavone is with "Sensational" Sherri Martel, former women's champion. Wait, why? Oh, she's bitching about Rockin' Robin's horrible singing voice. Well, i can't argue with that. She also starts gloating about how Miss Elizabeth's Mega-Powers are going to explode all over WrestleMania, and i'm pretty sure she's referring to Hogan and Savage here, but i can't be 100% sure on that one. Well, what the hell--it's not like Sherri has anyone else in the company to work with, and she's awesome, so let's just give her some airtime to remind everyone that she exists (and to set up her eventual working relationship with Randy Savage). Fine by me.

Oh, it's time to head back to ringside, as Jimmy Hart is leading his second of two tag teams, Rhythm 'N' Blues, to ringside! Rhythm 'N' Blues is, incidentally, The Honky Tonk Man and Greg "The Hammer" Valentine. Honky is the rhythm, such as it is, and Valentine is the blues because he's gotta be really embarrassed by being forced to adopt Honky Tonk's hilariously shitty Elvis gimmick. Poor dude. Oh wait, they're actually not called "Rhythm 'N' Blues" yet. Oh shit, that's right--they actually tried to make this work as just plain old Honky Tonk and Valentine for a while before they said "you know what this tag team is missing? A cohesive gimmick. Hey Greg, rub all this shoe polish through your hair and throw on some Ray-Bans."

Match 10: The Honky Tonk Man & Greg "The Hammer" Valentine (w/Jimmy Hart) vs. The Hart Foundation

Will Jimmy Hart never tire of feuding with his former tag team? Bret starts this one off against Honky Tonk, and he immediately goes to work destroying the genitals of both his opponents. He stuns Honky with an atomic drop (fair play to Honky Tonk -- no one sells the effects of the atomic drop like he does) and then hits an inverse one, collapsing Honky to the mat where he tags out in desperation. Valentine comes in and gets treated to an inverse atomic drop of his own, followed up by a standing short dropkick by the Hitman. Tag to the Anvil and Hart whips Valentine to the ropes, slingshotting Neidhart into the ring for a shoulder tackle on the rebound. Always nice. Bret's back in now and misses a second-turnbuckle elbowdrop, and Valentine takes over, throwing Bret into his corner and tagging out to Honky Tonk, who makes with the kicks while the Hammer holds Bret in place. Classic Honky Tonk offense.

Valentine gets an inverse atomic drop on the Hitman and follows up with a falling headbutt into Hart's junk, and it's instant Karma for the Hitman as his balls are certainly powder right now. Honky Tonk hits his "Shake, Rattle & Roll" swinging neckbreaker and, knowing his finisher is one of the lamest in all of pro wrestling, tags out to Valentine to finish the job with his figure-four leglock--now enhanced by a shinguard that Valentine rotates back to his calf to inflict maximum damage. Ah, this gimmick was great. Valentine claimed a shin injury sometime in 1988 and started wearing that shinguard, and kept it on his leg months beyond when his leg should have "healed." And not one single referee ever yelled at him for using it as a weapon with his figure-four leglock. As Principal Snyder once said to Buffy Summers, "the police in this town are deeply stupid." 

However, Hart counters out of the figure-four and Valentine doesn't get to use the shinguard, and eventually after some more Honky/Valentine offense, Hart makes the hot tag to Neidhart, who starts to clean house. dropkicks and a short clothesline, and it takes Honky Tonk to break up a pin attempt on the Hammer. Tag out to the Hitman and Bret now gets to land some signature offense on Honky Tonk--some sick elbow drops and a suplex and Honky is selling like the champ he was. This actually is a pretty entertaining match, which isn't surprising since at least three out of these four dudes can go. 

The ending comes as Honky Tonk dives for Jimmy's megaphone while the ref is distracted with Valentine. However, Anvil grabs it first on the outside and tosses it up to Bret, who crushes Honky's shoulder with it and covers him for the pinfall and the win. Well, no one ever said the Harts were above cheating, even when they turned face. Man, poor Honky Tonk and Valentine. If only they both pretended to be Memphis musicians, maybe they'd have some more success in the ring...

Winners: The Hart Foundation via foreign object in 7:40

We now get a recap of the Ultimate Warrior/"Ravishing" Rick Rude feud to this point. Unfortunately for us, Rude's feud with Jake Roberts died off somewhere around Survivor Series, but on the bright side, we're treated to footage of a ridiculous posedown at the Royal Rumble between Rude and the Warrior. If you can imagine how batshit hilarious it to watch Warrior strike bodybuilding poses while acting like a coked-out maniac, you know how much i enjoyed this. Of course, i enjoyed Rick Rude bashing Warrior over the head and choking him out with a steel weight bar more, but that's beside the point. All in all, a fun little recap. The Intercontinental Title is up for grabs!

Match 11: The Ultimate Warrior(c) vs. "Ravishing" Rick Rude (w/Bobby Heenan) for the WWF Intercontinental Championship

QUICK IC TITLE RECAP: The Honky Tonk Man was the longest-reigning Intercontinental Champion of all time, holding the gold from June 1987 to August 1988 by sheer force of the champion's advantage: that the title cannot change hands via countout our disqualification. Basically, Honky Tonk made a career out of getting intentionally DQ'd to save his title. So it stood to reason that the only way to get the belt off Honky Tonk was to squash him fast so that he didn't have a chance to cheat. That's exactly what the Ultimate Warrior did at SummerSlam '88, appearing as a surprise IC title challenger, replacing Brutus Beefcake (who had been injured by the Outlaw Ron Bass just before the PPV). The match was all of 33 seconds and we had a new champ. Which brings us here, to Rick Rude trying to give Bobby Heenan his first managerial championship in five years with the WWF.

"Cut the music. What i'd like to have right now is for all of you high-rollin' Atlantic City sweathogs to keep the noise down while i take my robe off and give the ladies a look at the sexiest man alive. Hit the music." Ravishing Rick is sporting tights with the Intercontinental title airbrushed on them. This guy's one of the greatest heels of all time, by god.

And heeeere comes the Ultimate Warrior, running full speed down to the ring and expending 85% of his energy before he even gets to the ring. Rick tries getting the early jump on Warrior, connecting with a knee right as Warrior runs into the ring...but Warrior still has the Intercontinental title belt on, so Rick's just hurt himself like a dumbass. Bell rings and the Warrior goes to work tossing Rude around like a rag doll. The fans are going nuts as Warrior whips Rude into the turnbuckles and Rude makes it look like his back is broken. Rude also has Warrior's face airbrushed on his ass, by the way.

Oh, hey, a bearhug early! I guess Rude has to explain the next five sequences to him before they happen. Once he's done coaching the Warrior on what's happening next, he pokes Warrior in the eye to break the hold, then delivers a gorgeous flying dropkick from the top rope. Holy crap! He goes for the cover but Warrior throws him off before the ref can even count one. Warrior back in control now with a body slam and...pacing around the ring signaling for another bearhug. "What do we do next, Rick?"

Rude tries to eyepoke his way out of the bearhug referee Joey Marella stops him this time, leading to Warrior connecting with some more offense. "Now look at this, Monsoon, he's biting him! What cause does he have to bite him?" "Perhaps: hungry." Warrior goes for the big splash, but Rude catches him with knees to the gut and he finally gets to take some control. Rude hits a big piledriver and sells pain as he crawls over to Warrior and gets a two-count. Rude tries to swivel his hips to taunt the Warrior and sells back pain, which his hilarious. Rude continues on offense, hitting a clothesline and a side Russian leg sweep (one of my favorite moves, by the way, especially when Bret Hart does it) into a pair of two-counts. Rude gets a submission hold on Warrior and calls the next spot as the crowd tries to rally Warrior, who crawls the the ring ropes, forcing a break as he shakes the ropes into a comeback. Flying tackle and it's time for Warrior to beat on his chest and faceplant Rude into the mat. Weirdly, Jesse is acting like it's all over. "I feel so bad for Heenan, getting so close to his first title!"

Rude ducks out of a turnbuckle splash, though, and keeps fighting, going for his "Rude Awakening" reverse neckbreaker until the Warrior dramatically powers out of it and hits a clothesline. "How psychologically devastating!" says Jesse. I especially like how Warrior was supposed to grab Rude's hand and pull him into the clothesline, but since he lost his grip Rude walked into it anyway. Warrior clotheslines Rude on the ropes and he does a 360 flip onto the apron. And here it comes...Warrior tries to suplex Rude back into the ring, but Heenan trips him and grabs his leg! The ref doesn't see it (and doesn't see that both Warrior's legs are under the rope as Heenan holds them down) and counts the three! New Intercontinental Champion!

Warrior immediately goes after Heenan, who ends up taking a gorilla press slam from Warrior for his trouble. But no matter--Heenan's finally got a champion in your new IC titleholder, "Ravishing" Rick Rude. It's deserved, since Rude pretty much had to carry the whole match to make Warrior look any good.

Winner: Rick Rude via pinfall in 9:36 to win the Intercontinental Title

Match 12: Bad News Brown vs. Hacksaw Jim Duggan

Immediate cut to Bad News heading to ringside. Yeah i guess Hacksaw's still in the company, so we'd better get him on the show. Who do we have left to put him in the ring against? Bad News? OK, fine.

I think this is the only match of the evening where neither wrestler has entrance music, so i suppose it's notable because of that. Hacksaw comes to ringside hoisting the American flag in opposition to Bad News, who is from the diabolical foreign nation of...Harlem. Oh. 

Or should i say, "HOOOOO!" Hacksaw's really off his meds today, because he will. not. stop. saying. HOOOOO! Dixie just chimed in from the couch with a "gee, that isn't annoying at all." Let the record show that the babyface is once again much more annoying than the heel. 

As both men basically turn this into a pure brawl, Jesse amusingly observes that the first guy to attempt an actual wrestling hold may win it. Ugh, this match is complete garbage. Hacksaw hits his running clothesline finisher and Bad News goes spilling out the ring, where he says "fuck this" and grabs a steel chair. Hacksaw grabs his 2x4 and when both guys go after each other with the weapons, the ref calls for the bell, disqualifying both men. The payoff? Hacksaw eventually clotheslines Bad News with the 2x4, and we're treated to a real nice closeup of a huge ball of snot hanging off Hacksaw's nose and in his mustache. Oh, that's savory. Nice job, guys. You get a paycheck today.

Winner: Double-disqualification in 3:49

Mean Gene Okerlund is in the backstage area with...sigh...The Red Rooster, also known as legitimately skilled technical wrestler and modern-day NXT trainer Terry Taylor. He is strutting around like a chicken and cock-a-doodle-dooing about how it's going to be a great day at the barnyard when he gets his rooster claws into the Weasel. Fuck.

Match 13: Bobby "The Brain" Heenan (w/the Brooklyn Brawler) vs. The Red Rooster

The Red Rooster pins Bobby Heenan in 31 seconds.

Winner: The Red Rooster via pinfall in :31

Mean Gene is now with Miss Elizabeth, who will be technically managing both men in the main event from a neutral corner. She very demurely states that she will support both men and hopes that there is not a serious injury. Stirring stuff from Elizabeth.

Match 14: Randy "Macho Man" Savage (w/Elizabeth)(c) vs. Hulk Hogan (w/Elizabeth) for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship

Savage comes out first, followed by Elizabeth, who also comes down to "Pomp & Circumstance" while Jesse calls her a gold digger, assuming she'll end up with whoever wins. Jesse also wonders why the champion came out first, contrary to usual protocol, but he seems to be forgetting that the WWF has had a babyface champion for the last five years (11 if you ignore the twenty-some-day reign of The Iron Sheik). Hogan comes to the ring and tears his shirt off and blah blah, we're underway.

The match starts with Savage defiantly hoisting his title belt in the air, which is an awesome "fuck you" to Hogan. Things start slow as Savage is slow to lock up, trying to psyche out Hogan, but eventually there's a headlock by Savage that's reversed into a Hogan shoulder tackle, which sends Savage out to ringside to pace and taunt the fans...and Elizabeth. Savage back in now with a headlock on Hogan, and when Hogan pushes him to the ropes, Savage bails out again to stall further. Hogan gets flustered and begins to chase Savage around the ring, and Savage responds by stopping behind Elizabeth and holding her as a human shield, letting the boos rain down upon him like a real rain sent to wash the scum of Hulkamania from the streets of the city. Man, Savage is an excellent heel--vicious when he has the upper hand, a coward when the tables are turned. 

Hogan shocks Savage with a bonafide wrestling sequence, dropping Macho Man with a toehold into a front facelock! What the hell! Savage gets to his feet, though, and drops Hogan with a back suplex. But Hogan's back on his feet with a slight no-sell and starts hitting Savage with closed fists as Jesse screams for the ref to admonish him for the illegal punches. Savage comes back with a thumb to the eye, though, and then hits Hogan with a flying axehandle from the top. Two count! Savage grabs an armbar and puts his knee right into Hogan's chin as the fans chant for Hogan. Hogan gets back up but Savage pulls him back down with a hair pull behind the ref's back, and it's back to the armbar. Hogan stands again, Savage tries another hair pull, but Hogan doesn't go down; instead, he grabs Savage's trunks and throws him out of the ring, which Jesse calls out as an illegal use of tights (and Monsoon claims is a fair turnaround when you're getting your hair pulled. OK, fine).

Back in the ring, Hogan connects with some turnbuckle shots, a clothesline, a couple elbow drops, and then opts to rake his boot across Macho Man's eyes instead of a third elbow. What did i say earlier about Hulk Hogan and eye rakes? "I'll tell you what--i don't understand how the Pukesters can cheer for this guy," spits Ventura. Hard to argue when Hogan is sinking to Savage's level. But that's Hogan's M.O.--he'll cheat like crazy and justify it with a "he started it." That sure is babyface behavior! And people were stunned when he joined the nWo.

Savage responds with a kick to the face and a clothesline for a two-count, and Hogan blades! He's cut above the eye, ostensibly from the kick but actually from a razor blade, and we've got juice. Savage lays into a headlock as the blood drives home just how mad with rage Savage is here as he dishes out psychotic the form of a headlock, but whatever. Hogan fights back and punches out of the headlock, following up with a shoulder tackle and an atomic drop, but he misses the elbow and Savage strikes back, throwing Hogan into the corner and rolling Hogan up for a one count as Hogan's momentum is too much. Savage punches Hogan in his bleeding eyebrow to open things up some more, and he strikes a spinning pose as the fans boo. So good.

However, Savage's showboating gets him in trouble as Hogan jumps to his feet and semi-Hulks up for a second wind, delivering six turnbuckle shots to the head and more closed fists to Savage's face. Savage reeling now as Hogan dumps Savage right over the top rope. Referee Dave Hebner admonishes Hogan for the dumpoff as Elizabeth tends to Savage on the floor. "Well it's about time," says Jesse. Except that Savage gets to his feet and violently swings his arms at Elizabeth to get her off him, nearly smacking her in the face and eliciting some shocked "ooooohs" from the audience. Man, Savage is playing the unhinged psycho heel to a T. Both men fight outside the ring, bashing each other's heads into the railing and ring apron. Hogan picks up Savage and prepares to ram him into the steel post, but Elizabeth stands in his way, pleading with Hogan to not take it to that level and seriously injure the Macho Man. However, Savage has no such qualms, sliding off Hogan's shoulder and ramming him into the post, forcing Liz to duck at the last minute. Awesome. Savage heads back into the ring to HUGE boos as Liz now tends to Hogan, which sends Savage back to the floor to pull her off Hogan and start berating her. This time he's had about enough and starts pushing her into the aisle by her chin, getting ready to possibly smack her one, and Dave Hebner comes to the rescue. He screams at Savage to get back into the ring, and he tells Elizabeth to leave the ring area. A rare smart call by an official, as Liz is distracting everyone involved in the match. Now it's just one on one.

Savage climbs to the top rope and dives onto Hogan, who's leaning on the steel railing. Double axehandle to the back, and Hogan connects with his chin on the rail but sells it like his throat was draped over the railing, Steamboat-style. (Interestingly, Steamboat is busy on this night defending his NWA World Title against Ric Flair in a near hour-long two-out-of-three-falls classic at Clash of the Champions, which is mandatory viewing.) Savage guillotines Hogan on the top rope, and it's time for Savage do live up to his name. Elbow on the apron right to Hogan's throat, and Jesse crows that it's only a matter of time now. Kneedrop to the throat and Hogan barely gets the shoulder up at two. Macho Man follows that up with a choke, using the tape on his wrist as a weapon. Savage is solidly in control now. 

After another choke, Savage climbs to the top rope and SOLIDLY connects with the flying elbow. Hulk is twitching in pain. Savage covers him and one...two...aaaaand the kickout. Hogan Hulks up and starts to no-sell everything. Punch, Irish whip, big boot, legdrop, one, two, fuck this. Hulk Hogan wins and Jesse Ventura is sick. It's ok, Jesse, i'm right there with ya. Once again, Hulk takes the worst his opponent can dish out until he decides it's time to no-sell all the offense and do the Three Moves of Doom. Savage is sick with disgust and the celebration is on in the middle of the ring. Pose, pose, pose. Blah, blah, blah. 

Winner: Hulk Hogan via pinfall in 17:54 to win the WWF World Title

Hogan at this point becomes the first wrestler since Bruno Sammartino to enjoy a second WWF World Title reign. Still, Savage shouldn't hang his head in shame, as he carried this match to the watchable level it achieved. But seeing how the ending is booked in typical Hogan fashion, and knowing that Savage was basically treated as a placeholder for a year until the time was right for Hogan to win it back,'s a bummer. But at least the match was entertaining. And as Jesse sagely points out, "you may have Hulk as the champ, but i've got Rick Rude as the Intercontinental champ." Even a young CM Punk had to be ok with that consolation prize, if he was watching this at home.

NEXT TIME: It's babyface vs. babyface, title vs. title, as World Champ Hulk Hogan and Intercontinental Champ The Ultimate Warrior (uh, spoiler alert...he regains the title at SummerSlam. Blah) defend their titles against each other in the Toronto Skydome in a match that somehow becomes greater than the sum of its parts! See you then, all dozen of you reading these! 

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