Greatest Wrestling Stars of the 80s

The SmarK DVD Rant for The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the 80s

– This is one where I’m not sure why I never got around to picking it up, since it’s totally up my alley as far as the subject matter goes. Plus a few times now when I’ve complained about a certain match not being a DVD set, someone has said “Oh, that match is on the Greatest Star of the 80s DVD” and finally I just decided to pick the damn thing up already. That proved to be a bigger challenge than I thought, as I finally found it in stock at Highspots.com. Should have bought it from Wal-Mart last year when they had it for super-cheap.

Disc One

The concept with this set is that we get 15 mini-bios of 80s legends, ala the Hall of Fame segments on 24/7.

First up, Bobby Heenan, who goes from midcard wrestler to main event manager in the AWA, and of course Steve Lombardi is RIGHT THERE to add his comments.

Wrestlemania III is presented here as his managerial high point, although I think that 1989 was more of a high point for him in a kayfabe sense, and Bobby talks about the magic of his partnership with Gorilla on Prime Time Wrestling and how they’d set each other up for zingers. This leads to The Bobby Heenan Show, which he describes as his version of “American Idol,” except it was “American Asshole”.

Next up, Junkyard Dog. They do a quick breeze through his pre-WWF career. Apparently performing “Grab Them Cakes” at the Slammys was quite the highlight for him, career-wise. We get a clip of his embarrassing match against Ric Flair. And then he died. Well that was pretty shallow.

Next up, Sgt. Slaughter, who was working as a roofer when a friend introduced him to Verne Gagne and he decided to become a pro wrestler. The name came from a Jackie Gleason movie, which would be Soldier In The Rain according to IMDB. Sarge remembers the details of his AWA career differently than anyone else (he never actually won the AWA World title, no matter what that footage shows, and that was from 1990 anyway), and then becomes the 400th person to take credit for inventing entrance music. After a career as a hated heel, he returns to face down the Iron Sheik during the Iran hostage crisis and turns himself face. Then we skip ahead to 1990 as he turns heel again and people threaten to bomb his house over winning a fake title.

An interesting choice next, with Greg Valentine. He talks about his early partnership with Ric Flair and the origin of the Hammer nickname. We get clips of the gory title match where Hammer wins the US title from Roddy Piper, and Tito Santana talks about their awesome feud. Greg attributes the success of the feud to Tito not being afraid to get hit hard. That’s fair. This of course leads to the formation of the Dream Team and they win the tag titles with a well placed cigar. He talks about the Bulldogs feud, and was quite satisfied with those matches. God knows Dynamite would never complain about being hit too hard. And then his career apparently came to an abrupt halt and he ceased to exist.

And we finish this disc with Roddy Piper, who was “born in a place called Saskatoon, Saskatchewan” (Whoo!) and proceeded to lose his first match to Larry Hennig in 10 seconds, but things got better from there for him, especially when he moved to Mid-Atlantic and started teaming up with Ric Flair. Jim Crockett apparently told him and Greg Valentine to pull out all the stops for their dog collar match, and Piper lost 50% of the hearing in one ear as a result. Then in 1985, we does the Warr to Settle the Score with Hulk and someone asks him “Do you think you can kick Cyndi Lauper in the head without hurting her?” and thus a fad is born. Piper’s still taking shots at Mr. T (“Everyone in the ring at Wrestlemania was the real deal. Except Mr. T”). He talks about Piper’s Pit and then retires for the first time in 1987.

Extras

Dog collar match: Greg Valentine v. Rowdy Roddy Piper.

From Starrcade ’83. Valentine was the US champion, but this is non-title due to the gimmick match, despite what the DVD menu says. Bigtime bloodfeud here as Piper was crazy over as a babyface. They play tug-of-war with the chain to start, using their necks. Piper whips him with the chain and Valentine backs off. Valentine tries to whip Piper in turn and fails. Slugfest and they back off again. Piper blitzes him, and crotches him with the chain, but Valentinue uses the chain to nail Piper in the injured ear and rubs it in. Ouch. Greg drops the hammer, but Piper kneelifts him and chokes him out. Cool spot sees Piper wrap the chain around the post to trap Valentine in the corner and beat him down with the chain. Greg blades. Valentine chokes him down and Piper bails. They start whipping each other with the chain and slug it out on the apron. Greg goes to the ear to take over. He posts Piper and the ear starts GUSHING blood. Valentine pounds on the ear with the chain. That’s sick. Piper blocks a suplex with a chainshot, but gets elbowed in the ear. Hammer elbow gets two. Another one gets two. Piper spears him and stomps away, but has no balance due to the ear injury. He destroys him with the chain and wins a slugfest, but Valentine clotheslines the dizzy Piper and gets a kneedrop for two. Piper reverses a suplex for the double-KO as Piper bleeds like a pig. Valentine sleeper attempt has Solie writing the match off and nearly packing up the headset to leave, but Piper rears back and KO’s him with the chain. Greg gets a pair of elbows, and misses one off the 2nd rope, allowing Piper to get a fluke pin at 15:15. Slowish but intense and sick brawl. ***1/2 Valentine absolutely massacres Piper afterwards.

Sgt. Slaughter v. The Iron Sheik.

Sadly, this is not the famous 6/16/84 bloodbath, it’s a match from 5/84 instead. Why they wouldn’t just show the one everyone would want to see, I dunno. Sheik spits AND slaps him to start so you know it’s business. Sarge hammers him in response and throws a rare dropkick. He loads up his own boot in a nice touch and gives Sheik a shot, but the ref checks it and declares it fine. But then it IS Danny Davis and we know how dependable a ref he is. Slaughter grabs a headlock and pounds away, then tosses Sheik. Back in, he drops a pair of knees, but picks Sheik up at two. Back elbow, and he picks Sheik up again. Well I don’t think he had a decent shot there anyway. Sarge, as usual, takes his trademark bump into the post and hits the floor to turn the tide, and Sheik hits him with a chair to follow. Back in, Sarge slugs back and powers Sheik down, but runs into an elbow and hits the floor as a result. Back in, Sheik uses the pointy toe of DEATH and Sarge starts bleeding. And I mean BLEEDING, as he does an awesome and immediate gusher, which Sheik bites on. Gut wrench and elbowdrop put Slaughter down as Mean Gene gets all worked up and demands that the match be stopped. But no, instead Sheik goes up and tries a flying stomp, which misses. Sarge blocks and reverses a suplex, then makes the comeback while bleeding all over the ring. Slaughter hits him with the Cannon and then pulls Sheik’s boot off, but the ref calls for the bell at 14:15. And even the combined force of Tony Garea and Rene Goulet can’t stop him! Kind of disappointing since I was expecting one of the best matches of the 80s and I got a double DQ finish to an OK match instead. *** Good bloodbath, though.

Intercontinental title, lumberjack match: Greg Valentine v. Tito Santana.

From March 17 1985. Did they really run a show in MSG 2 weeks before Wrestlemania? Talk about oversaturating. Valentine attacks to start, but Tito sends the fists a’flyin and Hammer retreats to the floor. The heels are none too quick to help him back in, but luckily Ricky Steamboat is there to set things right. Back in, Tito catches a boot and hits him with an atomic drop into a kneelift, and Greg runs away again, where JYD sends him right back in. Tito hammers away in the corner, but Valentine takes him down with his own atomic drop, but Tito just keeps on firing away. Tito rings the ears (which Mean Gene calls all AWA old school as a “skullcracker”), and knees him down with some surprisingly vicious stuff, into an elbow off the second rope for two. Valentine makes a run for it, right into the face side, and they carry him back in the hard way. Tito slugs away again, but gets too fired up and runs into a knee for two. Valentine takes over in his usual methodical style, dropping the Hammer for two. He starts working on the leg and tries rolling him into a half-crab, but Tito slugs out of it. And now it’s Titos’ turn to get tossed to the floor and back in by the heels. Back in, Valentine hits him with a forearm off the middle rope and sets up for the figure-four, but Tito reverses for two. Valentine levels him with a forearm to win a slugfest, then drops an elbow for two. Greg slugs away in the corner, but takes a step back and that allows Tito to drop down to his back and monkey-lift him into the turnbuckle to come back. They slug it out and Valentine goes down, but Tito won’t let him run away. Suplex gets two and he drops a knee on Valentine’s head and tries his own figure-four, but Hammer flips out of it and then runs away. The faces chase him back in, and he runs right into a forearm from Tito, and THAT sets up the figure-four for real. Sadly, Jimmy Hart distract the ref, allowing John Studd to drag Valentine to the ropes, and Tito gets all distracted. Valentine attacks him and they slug it out, but Tito collapses and Valentine falls on top for the pin to retain at 15:07. Not the upper echelon for them or anything, but it’s always a good combination. ***1/4

Wrestling Classic Tournament Final: Junkyard Dog v. Randy Savage

Really, if you’re gonna pick a match from this tournament, the Savage v. Dynamite semi-final is the way to go, but for a career highlight of JYD I suppose you could do worse. Savage stalls to start and then does badly in a lockup battle, allowing Dog to headbutt him in the lower back and follow with an atomic drop. Bearhug follows, but Savage goes to the eyes to break, so Dog pounds on the back again, but Savage comes out of the corner with the clothesline for two. Savage tosses him and drops the axehandle, then works the ribs and drops another one. He chokes the Dog out on the railing and drops an elbow, but Dog blocks the flying axehandle back in the ring. Comeback time as he headbutts Savage on the mat and yanks him out of the corner with the London Bridge, and another headbutt ties Savage up in the ropes. Savage goes to the eyes, but charges and gets backdropped to the floor, giving Dog the win and the tournament by countout at 9:30. No real story told here. **1/4

Weasel Suit Match: Bobby Heenan v. Ultimate Warrior

From MSG in 1988. Dunno why they chose this one instead of the WrestleFest version of the match. Bobby attacks while Warrior is posing in the corner, and that accomplishes nothing. Bobby tries running away as the announcers start a pool on how many times Heenan is going to run, and they do a chase until Warrior outsmarts him on the floor and tosses him back in. Heenan finds the patented Jerry Lawler foreign object and uses it to gain the advantage, but Warrior gets the dreaded popsicle stick away from him and takes over again for good. Heenan takes a trip to the post and bumps all over the place, and a sleeper puts Bobby out of his misery at 5:26. And then his misery really begins, as Warrior stuffs him into the weasel suit. All in good fun. 1/2*

– At the 1986 Slammy Awards, JYD performs “Grab Them Cakes”. Pretty blatant lip-synching here, but it was the 80s.

– Sgt. Slaughter tells an extended version of the training camp story from the documentary.

– Sgt. Slaughter tells another story about meeting Ronald Reagan during both of their heydays in the 80s. He came THAT close to having Ronnie drop and give him 10 pushups.

– From Tuesday Night Titans in March 86: Roddy Piper abuses Haiti Kid on Piper’s Pit and shaves a Mohawk into his head. The hard way, with scissors.

– From Tuesday Night Titans in July 1984: Greg Valentine gets a backrub from his wife, who is more tan than Hulk Hogan after falling asleep on the beach. No real payoff here.

– The Bobby Heenan Show from May 1989, with guest Jameson Winger. It was really confusing for us in Canada when they put Jameson with the Bushwackers in 1991, because we didn’t get Prime Time and no one had ever seen him before, since he wasn’t a character who existed outside of that show.

Disc Two

So first up on the second part, it’s Jerry Lawler. He tells the story of becoming The King after beating Jackie Fargo, and we get right into the classic footage of Andy Kaufman. Lawler calls it his all-time favorite match. Then in 1988 Curt Hennig is about to jump to the WWF, so they do a quickie title change and Jerry wins his first World title as a result. Then we get footage of the famous Lawler-Von Erich title unification that unified nothing. Super, super rare footage as we get Lawler & Dundee beating Doug Somers & Soldat Ustinov to win the AWA World tag titles. Lawler tells a story about Randy Savage jumping to WCW and leaving them needing a commentator for RAW, which is total crap because Savage told them he was leaving well in advance and Lawler was an announcer for two years before Savage left.

Onto Arn Anderson, as he brings us back to his hometown in Rome, GA. Funny story about how party time didn’t begin until after 8:05, because that’s when Georgia Championship Wrestling went off the air on Saturday night. So he met Ted Allen and got introduced into the business, and he shot up from there and landed in the prime of the company’s run, with the Four Horsemen. He says that a victory roll from Shawn Michaels during a match broke his neck, and he just never got it dealt with until it ended his career in 1997.

The NWA theme continues with Dusty Rhodes. We get some classic footage of the Texas Outlaws, and they cover his first World title reign in 1979 and then show him winning his second from Harley Race in 1981. We get a montage of his 70s promos (the “Hitmaker / Record Breaker” one from MSG is quite the piece of business in itself) and we jump ahead to the feud with Ric Flair in 85/86. The dynamic was great, but the matches just couldn’t deliver.

Ricky Steamboat! Yeah! He reveals that he’s not actually from Hawaii (gasp), and talks about moving to Minnesota and rooming with Donna Gagne, which gave him an introduction to Verne and his training camp. That sure turned out to be a hell of a camp as far as the business is concerned. Ric Flair brought him into Georgia and they wrestled pretty much every night for 5 years until they were both awesome by osmosis. He learned early on that if he changed up his style to accommodate the heels, then eventually they would change their styles to accommodate his and everyone looked better in the end. He calls his matches teaming with Jay Youngblood the most fun of his career, and then he jumps to the WWF in 1985. He admits that he conspired with Savage to steal the show from Hogan at Wrestlemania III. And although we get extensive clips of that, we jump ahead and get nothing from 1989 except for a clip of him holding up the belt after winning it from Flair. Flair notes that it’s great people think those matches were the best of all time, but he’s a little sad that no one remembers all the great matches they had in the little arenas years before that.

And what better way to end this disc than with Ric Flair? Flair’s career of course nearly ended before it got started, as he was in the plane crash in 1975 that affected his back for the rest of his career. Ric says it should have made him humble, but just made him hungry instead. So in 1981, he wins the NWA World title for the first time, and it seems like a lifetime ago. He wins it again at Starrcade 83, and Flair credits that show with relocating him to North Carolina in an effort to make him the hometown babyface. From there we discuss the Four Horsemen and the feud with Dusty Rhodes. And then jump to his tribute show in 2003 for some reason to wrap it up. Man, they should really give him a 3-disc DVD collection to properly pay tribute to him. Maybe even two of them with non-overlapping matches.

The Extras

NWA World title: Ric Flair v. Dusty Rhodes

From Starrcade ’84, and Joe Frazier is the referee. Dusty grabs a headlock to start, but Flair throws the chops to break, so Dusty gives him the Flip Flop and Fly and goes back to the headlock. They criss-cross and Dusty puts him down with an elbow, but Flair comes back with the kneedrop for two. Flair misses another one and Dusty gets his shitty figure-four, then works on the leg for a bit before shifting to a top wristlock and starting on the arm. Make up your damn mind. Flair escapes with a chop, but Dusty elbows him down and follows with a press slam to trigger a Flair Flop. They trade shots in the corner and we get the Flair Flip to put Ric on the floor. Dusty suplexes him back in for two, but Flair elbows him down and goes up, and you know what happens next. Dusty misses the elbow and Flair gets the sleeper. They brawl outside and Dusty hits the post, drawing blood. Joe wants to check the cut, but Flair charges in with a high knee and pounds away on the cut. Joe check it again and finally stops the match at 12:05. Anyone who prematurely stops a Dusty Rhodes match is OK in my books. The problem with Dusty v. Flair was always the same one — neither guy wanted to be the one who wasn’t the star, so you’d get matches like this where they do some meaningless stuff back and forth and neither guy has to look bad. **1/2

National Tag Team titles: Ole & Arn Anderson v. Wahoo McDaniel & Billy Jack Haynes

From Starrcade ’85, and this is one I’ve been interested to see because we got all the buildup on NWA World Championship Wrestling on WWE 24/7 but never got to see the payoff. Billy and Wahoo were the Florida version of the US tag team champs at this point and this was a kinda-sorta unification match in that it was never announced as such but the US tag titles quietly went away after this match. Haynes overpowers Arn into the corner to start and follows with a press slam, and Arn backs off. Ole comes in and immediately gets double-teamed by the US champs and chopped down by Wahoo, so Arn comes back in again. They work off a headlock and Wahoo gets the advantage, but Arn quickly goes for the arm and the Andersons start working on it. Ole slams Wahoo and drops an elbow for two, then runs the shoulder into Arn’s knee in the corner. Billy Jack comes in for the brawl, but that allows the Andersons to do more damage in the corner, and Arn cranks on the arm, but Wahoo chops him down, forcing Ole to switch in and fight him off. Hot tag Haynes and he knocks some noggins together and stomps Arn down, but the ref wants CONTROL, dammit. So again the Andersons double-team him and force Wahoo to tag back in, as he chops Arn down for two. Ole makes the save and things break down again, and he trips Wahoo so that Arn gets two. Another trip and Arn pins him at 8:57 to retain. Looks like they messed up the first time and redid it. Felt really short, like a TV match. **1/2

AWA World title v. WCCW World title: Jerry Lawler v. Kerry Von Erich

This is course the main event of SuperClash III, the most nightmarish political fiasco in wrestling history, and that’s saying something. Kerry, being a total moron, catches his blade on his robe while taking it off and cuts the hell out of his forearm, leaving poor Lawler to improvise right away. Lawler is clearly playing heel in this match, which never made sense to me. Kerry sends him running with a punch. Back in, Von Erich clotheslines him twice as Lee Marshall notes that he has a cut on his right arm. Of course, the cut is clearly on his LEFT arm, but to be fair keeping left and right straight is asking a lot of Lee. He’s probably the only announcer who needs to check his underwear to remember his own name when doing the introductions for the show. Test of strength, which leads to Kerry hitting Lawler with a discus punch for two. Lawler comes back and slugs him to the floor, but Kerry gets a discus punch from the apron. Slingshot splash misses, however, and the King knees him down. Piledriver is no-sold by Kerry, and another discus punch gets two. OK, you can spin around before you punch someone, we get it. He tries the claw, but Lawler fights him off and slugs him down for two. Kerry gets a piledriver for two, as the ref is bumped already. To the floor, where Von Erich punches the post by mistake. Back in, Lawler does his brilliant Phantom Foreign Object routine, which draws crazy heat and merely requires that he pantomime pulling an unseen piece of metal out of his tights, thus giving the same punches extra credibility. Kerry starts bleeding as Lawler drops fists from the middle rope, but Kerry catches him in the claw. Kudos for Von Erich’s epic blade here. The claw sequence goes on way too long,until Lawler reverses him into the post and then slugs him into oblivion before going back to the “foreign object” again while pounding on the cut. The crowd actually cheers him for this. Kerry makes the comeback and gets two off another discus punch, but when he reapplies the claw, the ref stops the match at 18:23. *** They were trying for epic, but epic is “Kerry Von Erich loses too much blood and passes out,” not “Kerry Von Erich loses a lot of blood and the ref stops the match while he’s in control of it.”

NWA World title: Ric Flair v. Ricky Steamboat

From the Chi-Town Rumble, finally uncut for my viewing pleasure. Well, uncut except for entrances, but you can’t have everything. Dig Dave Meltzer front row center with the afro. Steamboat shoulderblocks Flair down for two right away, and grabs a headlock, going into a rollup for two. Flair bails to think it over, and heads back in to start again. Lockup and Flair starts throwing chops, so Steamboat responds with more of his own and backdrops him out of the corner. Flair begs off and fires back with a chop, so Steamboat puts him down with one of his own. They trade hammerlocks and Steamboat slides underneath with a dropkick, then takes him down with another headlock and cranks on it. Flair fights up, so they trade more sick chops and Flair goes down off that, giving Steamboat two. Flair wisely gets the hell out of the ring after that exchange. Back in, Steamboat goes with the headlock again, so Flair chops out, and Steamboat fires back with a double chop that puts Flair on the floor again. Back in, Steamboat leapfrogs him and takes him down with a flying headscissors into a dropkick, and it’s back to that headlock for two again. They exchange chops and Flair gets a quick elbow, but so does Steamboat, and he follows with a vicious chop to put Flair over the top and on the floor. Crazy bumping from Flair here. He pulls Steamboat out and makes sure to chop him right in front of Dave, then rams him into the railing and pulls him onto the apron again and back in. Kneedrop gets two. Butterfly suplex gets two. He starts the chops again, but Steamboat fires back harder and we get the Flair Flip. Flair comes in off the top with a bodypress, but Steamboat reverses for two. He tries to pound Flair in the corner, but Flair takes him down with an atomic drop and right into the figure-four. Sadly, Tommy Young catches Flair using the ropes, and forces the break. Flair is strutting again and starts pounding on the knee, but Steamboat is still full of chops. Both guys spill out to the floor and resume the chopping, but Steamboat gets sent into the post. Flair brings him back in with a suplex for two, and a backdrop suplex gets two. Backbreaker gets two. Flair has his feet on the ropes, but the ref is watching the shoulders and so doesn’t see it. Steamboat comes back with a rollup for two, but Flair chops him. Steamboat tries to fly out of the corner with a bodypress in desperation, but misses and lands on his face. Flair takes him down with a headlock, kicking off the classic pinfall reversal sequence, into a Dragon butterfly suplex for two. Backslide gets two. They exchange chops again and Steamboat hits him with a clothesline out of the corner and adds a shoulderblock. He goes up again and hits the flying chop, then up again with the flying bodypress, but the ref gets wiped out. Flair rolls him up with no ref, as Teddy Long heads in to replace him, and Flair dumps Steamboat. Dragon comes back in with the flying bodypress again, but misses and Flair goes for the figure-four, but Steamboat reverses for the pin and the title at 23:08. This would be the lesser of their 1989 series, but that’s like saying it’s the lesser of three $50,000 diamond rings. You’d be glad to wear any one of them regardless. *****

Ric Flair v. Jay Youngblood

From Feb 1982, on Mid-Atlantic TV. Flair is the champ, but this is non-title, the kind of deal they used to do a lot on TV to put a guy over as a new star. Flair takes him down off a lockup, but Youngblood works on a hammerlock and then goes to a headlock. He switches to an Indian deathlock and works on that, so Flair makes the ropes. Youngblood with the backdrop and dropkicks, into a slam, and Flair backs off. They go back to the lockup and Jay puts him down with a nasty chop, triggering a slugfest in the corner. Flair Flip and Youngblood goes back to the headlock and overpowers Flair, but misses a charge and hits the floor as a result. Flair goes after the leg, but Youngblood cradles for two and gets a hard bodypress for two. Another chop puts Flair down and a rollup gets two. A chop into a small package gets two, and it’s a TV draw at 7:20. Flair tries to continue attacking, but Ricky Steamboat and all the faces come in to protect the new kid. **1/2

– From World Wide Wrestling in 1985: Dusty cuts a promo about how lousy his life is. But he’s still the highest-paid wrestler in the promotion! Yes, he really said that.

– From AWA Wrestling in 1988: Jerry Lawler cuts his victory promo after winning the World title from Curt Hennig.

– Ricky Steamboat talks about getting his name from an older wrestler named Sammie Steamboat and playing his nephew. More’s the pity, because Richard Blood is a GREAT wrestling heel name. From there, he went to the WWF, and they tried to tie him in with Bruce Lee because he was hot at the time, which gave us Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.

– Arn Anderson promo from World Championship Wrestling, January 1986.

– Four Horsemen promo from World Championship Wrestling, June 1986. This one’s coming up on 24/7 pretty soon, too.

– Jerry Lawler talks about a match with Jos LeDuc, where he got thrown into a table and suffered a broken leg. With footage!

Disc Three

First up this time, Jimmy Snuka. He discusses the origins of the Superfly splash and wrestling barefoot. We jump to the Piper feud and the legendary coconut to the head, which Piper notes was not gimmicked. And of course we get extensive discussion of the cage match with Don Muraco.

Next up on the old school WWF kick, it’s Cowboy Bob Orton. He credits the Briscos for his training in the early days, and we get some classic Mid-Atlantic footage. Piper notes that Orton made everything look so easy and smooth that he advised him to screw up purposely to get some heat on himself. Then Orton jumps to the WWF with Piper and we get a montage of homoerotic moments between them. Bob talks about how much he loved being so hated that he had to be smuggled out of the buildings in disguise and in ambulances and stuff. We discuss the very slow-healing forearm injury and resulting cast.

Next up, the Iron Sheik, who needs subtitles, and at least they don’t repeat the crap about him being in the Olympics. He started out as Hossein Arab, but the Iran hostage situation meant a name change to the Iron Sheik to really cash in on the controversy. And with controversy came the WWF title in 1983. And again he repeats the silly story about Verne Gagne offering him $100,000 to break Hogan’s leg. We get clips of the famous boot camp match against Sgt. Slaughter, and then move to Sheik and Volkoff winning the tag titles at Wrestlemania.

Paul Orndorff is next, as he was trained by Hiro Matsuda and cut his teeth in Mid-Atlantic, but they wouldn’t promise him anything and Vince Sr. would, so off to New York he went in time for wrestling to explode around him. We discuss Wrestlemania for the millionth time on this DVD and move onto the resulting feud against Roddy Piper, which could have been great but just never got that big blowoff it needed. New babyface Orndorff teams up with Hogan, but Hulk won’t answer his phone to discuss strategy, and a frustrated Paul turns heel again and makes himself very, very rich as a result. And then he suddenly left and moved to WCW years later. OK then.

And of course, we have to finish with Hulk Hogan. He was trained by Hiro Matsuda and suffered a broken leg as a result, and he wanted to retire, but the Brisco brothers were like “Are you crazy, you could have the greatest career ever!” and begged him to keep going. Yes, Hulk really said this. He gives us a year-by-year rundown of the 80s and we wrap it up.

The Extras

WWF World title, cage match: Bob Backlund v. Jimmy Snuka

This is from 1980, even though the DVD said that Snuka entered the WWF in 1982. And if you can’t trust Michael Cole, who can you trust? Snuka was of course a big-time heel at this point. Backlund hauls him into the cage and pounds on him to start, hitting a kneelift and slugging away. Snuka crawls for the door, but Bob pounds him down again, so Snuka fires back with chops and a headbutt to take control. Snapmare and kneedrop out of the corner follows, but Bob grabs the leg before Snuka can walk out. Bob eats cage and Snuka goes up to the middle rope, but misses a headbutt and Bob fights back until Snuka flattens him with a forearm. However, Bob rams him into the cage to draw some impressive blood, then follows with a catapult into the cage and some quality cheese-grater action. Snuka takes another ride into the cage, but fights back with a headbutt and Bob’s got no counter for that. Backlund keeps going and rams Snuka into the cage before going for the door, but Snuka kicks him low and pounds Bob down with chops. Then, the fatal error, as he drops a knee from the middle rope and attempts to follow by climbing to the top of the cage for a Superfly splash, but it misses and Bob rolls out to retain at 11:21. This is pretty much the forgotten Snuka dive, probably because it missed. Good violent cage match, though. ***

WWF World title: Bob Backlund v. The Iron Sheik

Sheik attacks to start and chokes him out with the head-dress, then goes to an armbar before Bob throws him off. Back to the arm, but Backlund takes him down with a hiptoss. Sheik goes right back to the armbar and he’s just pouring sweat for some reason here. He cranks on the armbar and shoots the half for two. Bob tries to power up, but Sheik surfboards him, forcing him to counter out. He puts Sheik down with a running elbow and follows with a skullcracker, but a suplex attempt just hurts his own neck. Sheik stretches him on the mat, but Bob fights up again and slugs Sheik down. He tries a slam, but Sheik falls back for two and then immediately surfboards him again to work on the badly injured back. Backlund reverses out of it, but Sheik just carries through and goes back to it again. Another go also fails, so he uses a wrestling counter to take Sheik down for two, and then into a headscissors. Sheik bridges up and Backlund reverses to a backslide, but Sheik beats him down to block. Good coverup for their blown spot there. Sheik misses an elbow and Bob rolls him up for two, but Sheik twists the neck to escape, and Bob is in serious trouble. Camel clutch in the middle gives him the WWF title at 11:38, as Arnold Skaaland throws in the towel. The crowd freaks out, but they’d only have to deal with WWF champion Iron Sheik for a month anyway. Really good mat-based chess game here, with Sheik focusing on the neck and back and wearing him down before finishing with his submission move. ***1/4

Sal Bellomo v. Paul Orndorff

Orndorff is being managed by Roddy Piper here, which would have been pretty early in his WWF run since he was at Starrcade 83 in a pretty big role just a couple of months before this. It’s also Orndorff’s MSG debut according to Finkel, so we’re early in his run too. Another major stall to start, as Piper and Orndorff complain about Bellomo’s knee brace and choice of corner and anything else they can bitch about. Taking off the robe eats up another 2 minutes alone. Finally Orndorff attacks and drops an elbow, then stomps away on the ropes. He chokes Bellomo out while Piper lays the badmouth on him, then follows with a giant backdrop for two. Piper yells about the slowness of the count, but then Bellomo reverses a slam attempt for two and Piper starts yelling “Not so fast! 1….2! Like that!” You could tell he was going to be a big star. Sal fights back with mule kicks from the mat. Sal works on the arm while Piper screams about phantom hair pulling, but Paul escapes with a backdrop suplex anyway. Orndorff tosses him and Piper attacks his self-esteem, allowing Orndorff to run him off the apron with a running knee. Paul follows him out and slams him on the floor, and back in for a suplex that gets two. He chokes away in the corner and goes up to finish, but Bellomo dodges his flying splash and makes the comeback. Orndorff quickly catches him with a powerslam to end that, but picks him up at two and kills him dead with the piledriver at 15:00. Not a great match or anything, but you could tell they wanted him to be a star and that’s exactly what he delivered on. **

WWF World title: The Iron Sheik v. Hulk Hogan

You may have seen this match before. Hulk jumps him from behind and hits an elbow in the corner, then clotheslines him with the ring robe and chokes him down. Hulk follows with the clothesline and kneedrop. Big boot gets two. Axe bomber and he drops the big elbow for two. Corner clothesline misses, however, and Sheik starts stomping on the back, then follows with a backbreaker for two. The ref checks on Hulk, so Sheik loads up the boot and adds a shot with it, before putting Hulk in a boston crab. Hogan powers out of that, so Sheik hits him with the gut wrench for two, and it’s time for the Camel Clutch. Ha, it’s over, no one will ever hear from this Hogan guy again. OK, I lied, as Hogan powers up and rams Sheik into the corner, then finishes with the legdrop for the first time of many, many times, winning the WWF title at 5:34. The phrase “The crowd goes wild” is barely enough to cover the reaction here. The match was pretty much perfect for what it was, as Hogan completely destroyed the Sheik and it wasn’t allowed to run long enough to expose him in any manner. ** And this of course is the #1 moment in wrestling history, as Hulk blew up the rulebook of what the WWF had been up until that point, and recreated the sport once and for all.

Jimmy Snuka v. Bob Orton

From the Feb /85 show that produced the War To Settle The Score. Snuka wins the lockup battle and Orton gets hung in the corner right away. Snuka grabs a headlock and they criss-cross into a Snuka chop, but Orton bails to escape it and runs right into another one, which gets two for Snuka. He goes back to the headlock and then follows with an atomic drop, and Orton bails again to think about it. Back in, Snuka goes back to the headlock, but Orton escapes with an inverted atomic drop and drops an elbow on his throat. He goes up for a big elbow, but hits the knees and Snuka makes the comeback. Fistdrop off the middle rope and backbreaker sets up the Superfly splash, but it misses. Orton charges and hits the post and Snuka finishes with a sunset flip at 10:00. Just your standard 80s kick and punch match. **1/4

The War To Settle The Score: Hulk Hogan v. Rowdy Roddy Piper

Pretty historic stuff to finish the bonus matches, as this would be the match that caused the Rock N Wrestling fad to explode. Slugfest to start and they fight on the mat, but Hogan wins that and slams him twice, then drops the elbow. Piper fires back with a corner clothesline for two, and a boot to the head gets two. He follows with a sleeper, but Hogan quickly fights out of it and rams Piper into the corner to break. Orton gets involved, but Hogan rams his broken arm into the post and puts Piper down with the clothesline. Orndorff comes in for the beatdown and the ref gets wiped out, so it’s a sports entertainment finish at 5:30 or so. Mr. T and Cyndi Lauper and the 18th Airborne all run in for the giant brawl and we have a Wrestlemania main event. This was less of a match than a giant angle. *

– From the WWF TV show in 1983: Sheik demonstrates the Persian clubs.

– From TNT in 1984: Tony Atlas and Paul Orndorff have a posedown that is a tad on the gay side. The porno music in the background kind of put it over the top in that regard. Vince declares Atlas the winner, so Orndorff attacks and they have an oily brawl in the faux nightclub set.

– From TNT in 1985: Roddy Piper and Bob Orton visit the doctor about the “broken” arm, and when he diagnoses it as totally healed, Piper discredits him and makes “quack” noises at him in a classic bit.

– From TNT in 1984: Vince has a sitdown interview with Jimmy Snuka and we get the Piper’s Pit with the coconut as a part of it.

– From SNME in 1986: Hogan cuts a promo against Hercules before their match.

The Pulse:

Overall, some classic bonus material, but the main features feel about as shallow as a wading pool and don’t really add anything to those who grew up in the 80s. I guess this is a good primer for those who missed that era and were living under a rock since then, but I just can’t recommend it as the definitive word on the subject when it’s so haphazardly put together. Pick it up if you can find it for cheap because it’s got some good rarities and a ***** Steamboat-Flair classic, but don’t be expecting anything life-changing out of it.

Mildly recommended.

And don’t forget to check out Stablewars.com to win a copy of my new book each and every month! 

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