Wrestling has a crazy busy day on 2/8/86
OK, I’ve been toying with this idea for awhile now and decided to actually start doing it this year. I’m cleaning up/adding to my wrestling Blu-Ray collection and trying to tackle it chronologically as best as possible. I basically only had exposure to the WWF through most of the 80s besides ESPN’s AWA and World Class shows until 1987. So in a lot of cases this week to week editing is my first time watching most of these matches/angles.
One other thing. These aren’t complete shows. I’m not interested in the fake guy (my term for jobbers when I was younger) matches. At least until I get to shows where Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon are doing the commentary. Today, we’re taking a trip through the week of February 8, 1986. Keeping the timelines of things has been a little tricky, but with some cross referencing I think all of this aired/occurred on 2/8/86. How spoiled were we as wrestling fans then?
Buzz Sawyer is scheduled to face Al Perez, but Perez ‘missed’ his flight. Instead, Hacksaw Jim Duggan returns after being taken out by the Mad Dog. Bill Watts finally took the show to arenas instead of that janky TV studio set and it makes Mid-South look like a real player now. Mad Dog bails immediately and Hacksaw stands tall.
Of all the territories Vince poached for talent, I’d argue none were effected as immensely as Mid-South. So many of the foundational pillars of the promotion eventually went to the WWF and Bill Watts couldn’t replace the talent after the second major raid.
Taurus Bulba vs Perry Jackson
Sir Oliver Humperdink introduces his new man to replace The Nightmare. Bulba demolishes Jackson. No shocker there, but the real twist is Eddie Gilbert siccing Bulba on Humperdink. Gilbert explains that’s some long overdue payback when Humperdink stole The Nightmare from him and he was simply biding his time. I love this kind of angle as Gilbert looks incredibly calculating in having a plan for revenge. Maybe this is an odd coincidence, but I really dug that Gilbert’s future protege, Sting, would be billed as From Every Man’s Nightmare.
Memphis is the promotion that always does the most with the least. Lance Russell and Dave Brown are the friendliest announcing duo ever. There’s no need for a heel commentator here.
Lance interview Nature Boy Buddy Landell. I wish Landell used a different gimmick. He always came off like such a second rate Ric Flair wannabe, but he was very talented and a great heel. Landell decided to get in on The Fantastics’ date with The Fantastics letter campaign. Landell doesn’t care if the women are married, single or whatever. Just send a picture and they’re in the running. The noble Fantastics want to take all the ladies out but will only go out with two. Buddy? He’s game for everybody.
He’s discussing his feud with Dirty Rhodes. Oh Memphis. These guys were notorious for creating rip-off characters and Dirty was one of the worst. At least here Buddy is in good company.
We get an arena clip of Bill Dundee, The Sheepherders and Landell attacking Koko B. Ware, Rick Casey and Dirty Rhodes.
Lance cuts to a promo of The Mod Squad with their manager JD Costello. Remember what I said about Dirty Rhodes? JD shamefully tries to rip off Jim Cornette. I’m not entirely sure if this isn’t JD’s first promo. Cornette actually revealed he was the one who got Costello hired at Memphis.
This isn’t from this show, but here’s a look at JD:
Lance chats with The Fantastics only to get interrupted by Dundee. He slaps Bobby Fulton and while backing off, takes an epic right hand from Fulton. Some goof named Khadaffi runs out to help Dundee and we’ve got one of those classic studio Memphis brawls. I’ve probably seen a legit 100 of these, but they never get old.
Clips of Magnum TA vs Ivan Koloff.
The Rock n Roll Express come out to face some fake guys while David Crockett reveals they have lost the NWA tag titles to The Midnight Express. Man, back in the days when you learned about title changes via syndicated shows!
David interviews Jim Cornette and The Midnights, who are naturally very humble, gracious and respectful discussing the former champs.
David talks to Baby Doll, who reminds Arn Anderson he’s next. I liked Baby Doll with Gino Hernandez and loved her as Tully’s Perfect 10, but as Dusty’s valet? Meh.
David interviews the tag team of the 80s, the former champs who vow to get their belts back. For once this is not an empty promise. David talks with Arn, who’s fuming about Baby Doll issuing threats. He gets real pissed off when Baby Doll arrives carrying a boot cast. Now that’s a pretty effective threat.
Tony Schavione and David break down the earlier clip. Magnum hits Ivan with the belly to belly and then Nikita runs in followed by Baron von Raschke politely climbing in to help. Dusty Rhodes comes in for the save and beats down Baron and Ivan, but gets hit from behind by Nikita.
Baby Doll climbs in and starts hitting Nikita. Is she crazy? This sheds a whole new light on her earlier promo accusing the Russians of trying to do something to her. She did start it. Nikita goes for the sickle, but Dusty pushes her out of the way (which would hurt more?) and takes it himself. Dusty sure does have a habit of making himself out to be a hero. And in this sequence, twice.
WWF at the Spectrum
In a lot of ways this is the Wrestlemania 2 walk through show since a lot of these matches will be revisited with more prominence. The official card had 10 matches including Cpl. Kirchner vs. Iron Sheik, Adrian Adonis vs. George Wells and Dan Spivey vs. Iron Mike Sharpe. Let’s just saw you didn’t miss much.
Terry Funk vs Junkyard Dog
In Mid-South, JYD wasn’t exactly having five-star matches, but he had enough fire and charisma to make his style match work. Almost as soon as he arrived in the WWF, he went on cruise control. Fortunately, Funk is the kind of maniac style wrestler to make JYD’s offense look good. And wonders of wonders, The Dog is feeling pretty motivated tonight. This is a rarity as Dog is feeling it and we’ve got a good WWF JYD match. In fairness by the way the crowd is reacting, I kind of don’t blame Dog since they
WWF Tag Team Championship: British Bulldogs vs. The Dream Team (c)
The Bulldogs, as usual, are great. The US Express were a top level WWF team, but the Bulldogs are on a different level. All of the other teams have to raise their game to match them. While a relatively new duo, The Dream Team proves they can hang with Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith.
Greg Valentine is a miracle worker. I’ve watched Beefcake in Memphis and the AWA and to be generous, he was pretty terrible. But almost immediately after teaming with Valentine, Beefcake started looking credible and dare I say actually like a guy who could be a breakout star in the 80s/90s.
These two teams had tremendous chemistry. It’s definitely not a one-team show as Beefcake and Valentine more than hold their own here. This time, Johnny Valiant proves just enough of a distraction for Valentine to flip Beefcake over to reverse a small package allowing Beefcake to get the pin.
I kind of like this unrelenting challenger approach to title contenders. The Bulldogs won’t go away, but the champs remain just a step ahead even though it seems like any match the Bulldogs will take the title. Like I figured this was a really good match.
King Kong Bundy promo. He promises to squash Hulkamania. This could just be a random threat or actual foreshadowing as we build to Mania.
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WWF Heavyweight Title Match: Hulk Hogan (c) vs. King Kong Bundy
I’d gotten so used to Eye of the Tiger that Real American is taking some getting used to again. It’s hard to overstate just how important Hogan was to the WWF’s success at this point. The roster is full of legitimate Hall of Famers, but the crowd loses their minds when Hogan enters ringside. He’s got the charisma of Dusty Rhodes, that it factor of Kerry Von Erich and is a more physical presence than Jerry Lawler This is the definition of putting butts in seats.
Hogan is still refining his signature look as he’s wearing white knee pads tonight. Watching old Hogan matches is interesting as he uses this quasi-heel style of fighting fire with fire. It’s actually pretty dirty, but that aggressiveness makes sense considering he’s always fighting these maulers.
People whine about how formulaic Hogan matches would become, but it works. Bundy hadn’t quite been built up to No.1 contender status yet — Vince McMahon would realize he needed angles to build challengers beyond they want the belt. Hogan had pretty much cleared the deck of challengers so now we needed angles to sell the sequel challenge.
Hogan pulls Brain in the ring just as Bobby pulled out some brass knuckles. The ref is a pro and doesn’t actually call for the DQ until the moment Bobby starts attacking Hogan. I hate those early DQs. Bobby tries to hold Hulk for Bundy to give him an avalanche and that works about as well as expected. This feud would continue…
That’s it for this show. The official card was much longer, but these three matches were really a lot of fun. It’s crazy to see all the talent WWF had here yet the other promotions were still so flush with quality stars.
Bill Mercer breaks the news that Gino Hernandez is dead. Gino was a great heel. Had he not died from a drug overdose and gotten a better handle on his addictions couldn’t have helped but been a major player in either/both NWA and WWF.
Paul Boesch talks about Gino as well. Hernandez debuted in Houston so this I did it my way video was a nice touch. It’s a little weird how Paul’s tribute to Gino is better/more heartfelt than the World Class one. You’d think he stopped by WCCW for a cup of coffee and wrestled most of his career in Houston.
WWF Boston Gardens
Gorilla and Jesse welcome us to the Gardens where folks are already hanging from the rafters. Vince tried to find various commentating partners for Monsoon, but
Look back at the Spectrum card as this plays out and imagine having this deep a roster. Think the bookers complained about not being creative enough with this crew?
Hillbilly Jim vs Big John Studd
The Brain is good, but not good enough to be in two places at once. Besides, Studd should be able to handle the Hillbilly while Bundy tries to take the title from Hogan. Gorilla and Jesse spoil that we won’t be seeing any Leaping Lanny Poffo moves. As advertised, this is in fact not a scientific clinic. I didn’t appreciate just how tall HBJ was, but that dude is nearly looking Studd in the eye.
Both guys go to the outside and brawl, but HBJ is smart enough to roll back into the ring to avoid getting counted out. I’m a sucker for these guys and it didn’t wear out its welcome.
Intercontinental Title: Tito Santana (c) vs. Macho Man Randy Savage with Miss Elizabeth
Call me crazy, but I’m thinking this could be the match of the week.
Santana’s first IC run was great. This second one has been kind of underwhelming as he couldn’t beat the new crop of heels until they challenged and lost to Hogan. Who would buy Macho Man, Beefcake, etc. if Tito already pinned them? This also underscores the importance of having a heel IC champ during this Hogan reign.
Macho Man in 1986 was a game changer. Piper could run his mouth to incite a riot, but in the ring his kick, punch offense wasn’t that thrilling. Macho could talk trash, bully Elizabeth, be just an overall sleazeball and still have great matches. Referee Danny Davis gets knocked out long enough to miss a full three-count small package. Tito’s finisher currently is the Figure Four. His flying forearm is my favorite and it’s a faster, higher impact shock finisher.
Savage is either reaching for Lil Macho Man or a foreign object in his tights. Tito suplexes him back in the ring, but Savage clocks him with the foreign object. The cheering Boston Garden crowd already shows Vince is going to have another mega superstar on his hands. And that he would have to work overtime to keep him a hated heel.
Gorilla and Jesse interview Macho Man, who’s already setting his sights on Hogan’s title. Geesh, way to not appreciate the moment. Savage even works a limp to sell the figure four. There’s some guys it’s hard to see how they became anything, but it’s unmistakable with Macho Man.
Killer Bees vs. The Hart Foundation
Maybe I misspoke about Savage/Santana being the match of the week? Jimmy Hart missed this one to be with Terry Funk.
Gorilla is already praising Bret Hart. Monsoon called it like it was, but I definitely got the sense that The Hitman was one of Gorilla’s favorites. Jim Brunzell is easily Top 3 Dropkicks of all time with Koko B. Ware and Okada. The Von Erichs had some pretty underrated great dropkicks too BTW.
What’s really fun about this match is how it doesn’t play into the standard tag team match formula. Both teams keep trading the advantage. With such a massive roster, Vince had to start creating some tag teams to share the wealth a little. It’s weird he doesn’t take the same approach now and make up some teams, give them a name and let them run together for 2-3 years while the roster sorts itself out. He’s so busy trying to find the next Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, he forgot to develop teams in the first place.
This one had a nice long time to play out and the Harts get the win thanks to a behind the back second rope elbow from Bret on Blair.
Judo Jacket Match: Ricky The Dragon Steamboat vs. Magnificent Muraco
This isn’t quite like a tuxedo match. Basically, Muraco is wearing a white gi and Ricky is wearing his ring entrance gear. Muraco is such a jerk. He’s entirely unlikeable, which is exactly what you want from your heels. Steamboat shows off some of the moves he learned from touring Japan including an enzugiri.
Steamboat and Muraco are so good that they’re even managing to do something with this silly stipulation. Steamboat keeps incorporating his offense to use the gi against Muraco.
Slingshot on the outside as Mr. Fuji held a chair. Ricky was such a major improvement over Superfly. Reverses a suplex and gets a rollup win. Muraco uses Fuji’s cane to lay Steamboat on the canvas.
Steel cage match: Roddy Piper vs. Bruno Sammartino
Fresh off the Patriots’ humiliating loss to the Bears in the Super Bowl, Piper endears himself to the crowd by wearing taping a poster of Refrigerator Perry to the cage and having #46 on the back of his T-shirt. That’s quality heat. Bruno comes in and immediately starts beating Piper down. For anyone who ever complained about a Hogan match, Bruno’s matches are basically a variety of kicks and punches. The fans still buy his offense and a cage match is the perfect way to hide he’s not exactly Savage or Steamboat.
Piper is game to selling all of Bruno’s moves and is bleeding about a minute into the match. Bruno gains all the fan support by tearing down the poster and stuffing it Piper’s tights. It’s cheap heat, but the crowd LOVES it. Sometimes you just don’t need to overthink it, you know?
I always loved how Gorilla and Jesse would question dumb wrestler logic as they do when Piper tries to climb over the top when the door is literally two feet in front of him. After about 15 minutes, Bruno crawls to the door and grabs a wooden chair from the outside to fight Piper off and escape.
Typically, I hate the race match setup of WWF cage matches, but it makes sense here. Bruno can’t go 30 minutes so it’s just a matter of rag-dolling Piper until he gets tired. And for Piper, it’s escaping this crazy old man. There’s some good back and forth action and while it’s hardly the match of the night, this was the right choice for the main event.
Overall, the Boston Garden fans had a better show than the Spectrum crowd, but this was a tremendous showcase of the talent at Vince’s disposal.
This was a pretty crazy day of wrestling. The next weekend includes Battle of the Belts II, which I’ll break down as an individual show.