It’s 1986. After the success of Wrestlemania 1 and the follow-up, The Wrestling Classic, in 1985, it seemed the only way was up for the World Wrestling Federation. But they mis-stepped a little with Wrestlemania 2 and then they had to follow that up. They did it by not having another PPV event until the following year’s third Wrestlemania, but they did have the hottest feud going with Hulk Hogan and Paul Orndorff, a feud that was drawing huge numbers and insane heat. So, on August 28, in Toronto, in front of in excess of 70,000 people, they held The Big Event. This was released on Coliseum Home Video, but was also shown on TV in Australia. I recorded it (on VHS tape!) and so had it for a while. The CHV version, for what it’s worth, is clipped. Anywho, the tape wore out and so I was left with just the memories. Then – lo and behold – Classics On Demand started, and so I got a chance to see it again, in all its glory.
This, then is The Big Event from the back end of 1986.
Our hosts are Gorilla Monsoon, Ernie Ladd, and Luscious Johnny V. Oh, that sounds like a fun trio there! [/sarcasm]
Match 1: Hoss & Jimmy Jack Funk (with Jimmy Hart v The Killer Bees (B.Brian Blair & Jumping Jim Brunzell).
Well, this was an interesting choice for an opener! They show a shot of the crowd – damn if that isn’t huge! This match was not horrible, just boring and slow. Even by the standards of 1986, it was slow. Lots of stalling and everyone seems to be loving as if they were recorded at 45rpm and played back at 33⅓. Which is weird because the Bees were regarded as something of a high-flying team. The finish was the standard Bees finish when they suddenly put their masks on, the one who hadn’t been the face in peril gets in the ring, and does things… and then they do another switcheroo for the quick roll-up and the win. The crowd explodes, but that was 9 minutes of boredom.
Winners: Killer Bees, pinfall
Who is that masked man?
Mean Gene with Mr Fuji. Some vague threats are made before Magnificent Muraco comes to drag Fuji to the ring.
Match 2: King Tonga who now wants to be known as Haku v Magnificent Don Muraco (with Mr Fuji)
KTWNWTBKAH looks positively small here compared to later incarnations of the character. Hey, you like rest-holds? Then this is your match? It’s punctuated by various bits of movement, some Mr Fuji interference, but, really, this is a match that… Look, like the first match, it is dull. So very, very dull. Then some excitement comes as Haku hits a slam and a body press… and then the time limit expires. There’s 20 minutes that lasted an hour.
Winner: time limit draw
Feel the excitement!
Mean Gene is now with Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan. Standard Heenan promo, hyping the 6-man match he’s involved in and Orndorff’s chances against Hogan. “Heenan is wrestling and wrestling is Heenan.” Heenan was always gold on the mike.
Match 3: Ted Arcidi v Tony Garea
Arcidi is a fireplug with arms. Garea tries to match strength and fails. Obviously. So he goes to his high-flying moves. And that works for a bit. Until Arcidi says, “Screw this,” and catches him in a bear-hug for the submission after a surprisingly quick 3 minutes.
Winner: Ted Arcidi, submission
Arcidi – just one in a line of ‘World’s Strongest Man’ claimants in the WWUniverse
Mean Gene with Jimmy Hart for a standard Jimmy Hart promo. Adonis – in full make-up “Adorable” mode – cuts it short. In 30 seconds, Hart explains an entire feud. Nicely done.
Match 4: Adorable Adrian Adonis (with Jimmy Hart) v Junkyard Dog
Ah, the good ol’ days, when “Faggot” was the height of a crowd’s witty insults. Gorilla makes comment about Adonis being the largest ever in his entire career. For those who don’t know, Adonis had a biker gimmick, but as punishment for putting on the excess poundage, was forced into the “Adorable” gimmick. At least, so I’ve heard. Hell, I was 15 when this show came out and live in Australia – what do I know? JYD pushes the ref, Hart sprays the atomiser in his eyes, Adonis takes over. Adonis jumps on him a few times, this match is not great terrible. Hart gets involved again, both men are out and the referee counts Adonis out… how, I have no idea.
Winner Junkyard Dog, via count-out of the ring
Imagine that jumping on you…
Match 5: Iron Mike Sharpe v The Rebel Dick Slater
I will not hear a thing against IMS. Once I realised I was shit in the ring, he was the one I based a lot of my early wrestling career on. Including the world’s loudest pain calls. Sharpe was a vastly underrated jobber to the stars. He could make anyone look a million bucks and I never ever saw him win a match. Much like myself… I am going off track here because this match is another slow one. Again, not terrible, just slow. It’s actually a decent little match, all things considered. Slater wins with an elbow from the top rope into a roll-up after seven minutes or so.
Winner: Dick Slater, pinfall
Note: Iron Mike on OFFENCE!
Match 6: King Kong Bundy, The Giant John Studd & Bobby The Brain Heenan v The Machines (Big & Super) & Capt. Lou Albano (with Giant Machine)
So Studd has been upgraded from “Big” to “Giant”? For those unaware, the Machines were a masked team from “Japan”, who came in not long after Andre the Giant was “suspended”. I can’t remember why. (Guess who Giant Machine was… hmm?) Heenan could never prove Giant Machine was Andre, and so went out of his way to unmask the team. Of course, this led to (dear God…) Hulk Machine, and if memory serves even a Rowdy Machine. Ahh, the 80s… when the drugs were clearly so much better. Okay, the match. It lasted 8 minutes. What? You mean you want more? Okay, and this is not hyperbole, but the best wrestling in the match was the 30 seconds when Heenan and Albano fought. The rest… It was not good. Lots of shows of strength and standard fat man wrestling (I resemble that remark). It’s not a terrible match (I’ve seen worse… a lot worse), but it is still not good. The end comes when Giant Machine enters the ring to save Albano after 8 minutes to get the Machines disqualified.
Winner: The Heenan Family, disqualification
Heenan upside down, Albano kicking him… Best offense of the match.
Match 7: Jake The Snake Roberts v Ricky The Dragon Steamboat
This is a no-DQ, “Snake Pit” match. This was the mid-80s version of hardcore wrestling, and was the blow-off match in quite the intense feud (involving a DDT on the concrete floor by Roberts). Roberts jump-starts the match and it does not let up after that. Starts in the ring as a standard wrestling match and then they go outside. Jake takes over. The crowd is hot and the match does not stop. Even the rest-holds are done in such a way to keep the crowd into it. Steamboat bleeds (and Monsoon calls a gutbuster an inverted backbreaker). End comes when Roberts does the nonchalant cover thing, and Steamboat rolls him up after a good and fun 10 minutes.
Winner: Ricky The Dragon Steamboat, pinfall
Ricky has control
Caveat: This is old school. Modern wrestling fans would find it tame and underwhelming, I am sure, but I enjoyed it.
Slingshot into the post outside the ring
Match 8: Hercules Hernandez v Billy Jack Haynes
Billy Jack was a favourite of mine in the mid-2000s on YouTube – the guy was batshit insane. This match… Gorilla is alone on commentary… and he immediately lets the viewers know this was recorded afterwards by talking about Slick buying half of contracts, which had not happened yet. I wish I still had my old tape to see why they felt the need to cut the commentary. Standard strong-man match with some nice moves. Look, it’s certainly not Steamboat-Flair, but, so sue me, I enjoyed this match. It was certainly better than their match at WM3. Haynes even hit a dropkick. Crowd does not care, for what it’s worth. After 10 minutes or so, the end comes when Hercules goes for a neck-breaker which Haynes turns into a backslide… and gets the pin! Really? Some-one apart from Kerry Von Erich wins with a back-slide?
Winner: Billy Jack Haynes, pinfall
That’s some impressive strength from Haynes.
See? A backslide!
Mean Gene with Jack Tunney (president of the WWF) to gush over the crowd and Canada.
Match 9: The Dream Team (Brutus Beefacke & Greg The Hammer Valentine) v Rougeau Brothers (Jacques & Raymond)
Dream Team jump start the match, but the Rougeaus clean house. Look, I don’t know what to make of this match. When Valentine was in the ring, it was great; when Beefcake came in, it was like he cast a strange spell on everyone and it became dull. The Rougeaus hit some nice double team moves and Valentine is always up for anything. Yeah, not sure what to make of it. I mean, we make fun of Ed Leslie now being the black hole of wrestling skill (especially those of us who endured his 492 gimmicks in WCW), but I had sort of forgotten he came into the business with that same ability. He never actually improved as a wrestler, did he? Oh well… Valentine is awesome, the Rougeaus were fantastic, so I’ll let myself be happy with that. Ending comes after around 15 minutes when, with Beefcake arguing with the ref, Valentine is trying to apply a figure-4 on Raymond and, halfway through it, in a nicely timed spot, Raymond jumps over to sunset flip him into a pin. Really nice ending.
Winner: Rougeau Brothers, pinfall
This sort of double team move was THE height of innovation in 1986.
That sweet ending
Mean Gene with Heenan again, this time talking about Orndorff. A confident Heenan is a fine Heenan.
Match 10: Pedro Morales v King Handsome Harley Race
And we go from some nice tag teaming to two old guys. Race jumpstarts the match, and it is a standard 1970s wrestling match. Pity this is 1986. So… very… slow… And dull. And Jimmy V being so over the line racist is not funny anymore. Was it ever funny? Probably… in the 1970s. After 4 dull, slow minutes, Race does a double leg trip and pins Morales with both feet on the second rope.
Winner: Harley Race, pinfall
The only excitement – Race cheats to win
Match 11: Mr Wonderful Paul Orndorff (with Bobby Heenan) v Hulk Hogan
Both guys come out to ‘(I Am A) Real American’. The heat for Orndorff is pretty incredible. This is yet another example of how, with the right opponent, Hogan could really bring it in the ring. This match is quite fast-paced and does not let up. There are even people cheering for Orndorff. This is back and forth. The ending comes after more than ten minutes when Orndorff is disqualified because he hit the referee earlier in the match or something (which was Hogan’s fault, by the way). This was a good match, and I think Orndorff was underrated as a wrestler. And after the match, Hogan beats Orndorff and Heenan up. Look, it was a decent match, but the ending did kinda suck. Nowadays, it would not have gone down well, I don’t think.
Winner: Hulk Hogan, disqualification
Orndorff knocks Hogan out of the ring
Orndorff suplexes Hogan on the floor
Hogan goes for a piledriver
So, there you have it. Not a great show, but not a horrible one. More of its time than anything else. But you can see where modern tag team wrestling was starting to come in, and that the backlash against Hogan constantly being champion was not a new thing.
In all, not too shabby.
Tags: "Iron" Mike Sharpe, 1986, Adrian Adonis, B.Brian Blair, Billy Jack Haynes, bobby heenan, Brutus Beefcake, Canada, DicK Slater, Don Muraco, Gorilla Monsoon, Greg Valentine, harley race, Hercules Hernandez, HGaku, Hoss Funk, Hulk Hogan, Jacques Rougeau, Jim Brunzell, jimmy hart, Jimmy Jack Funk, John Studd, Junkyard Dog, Killer Bees, king kong bundy, King Tonga, Lou Albano, mean gene okerlund, Mr. Fuji, paul orndorff, pedro morales, Raymond Rougeau, Ted Arcidi, The Big Event, The Machines, Tony Garea, Toronto, WWE, WWF