Lee Maughan: The first of many. Hosted by Vince McMahon who announces that we’ll be learning all about The Hulkster’s secrets on workout and nutrition. Well they won’t be secrets much fucking longer, will they?
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Greg Valentine
Sadly this isn’t the semi-famous Madison Square Garden match between the pair that wound up being used in an episode of The A-Team that Hogan starred in, but it is something of a rarity, because despite what promoters would claim about secondary titles being a stepping stone to the World title, very rarely was that ever the case. In this instance it was though, as Greg was Intercontinental champion but going after Hogan’s WWF title. Valentine in some ways was kind of like a less-explosive Japanese wrestler. You know those long matches you’ve seen from New Japan or All Japan where you’ve heard the match is an absolute classic but you just sit there watching it for the first ten or fifteen minutes wondering where all the praise lavished upon it has come from? So you just keep watching until suddenly the pace picks up and everything they’ve been subtly laying in since the opening bell all comes together and before you’ve even realised it, you’re on the edge of your seat? That’s what Valentine was like at his peak. There’s a subtlety to his work that you should at least try to appreciate, even if when compared to more modern standards he can come off as a little slow and plodding. But then this match was wrestled for a crowd in 1984 rather than a modern audience of fans still watching obsolete VHS tapes, and by the time Valentine had countered Hogan’s size and compromised his leg enough to zone in for the figure four, the crowd was absolutely electric. And then of course, the almighty Hulkster Hulked-up, dropped all pretence of pain, and polished off Valentine with a simple leg drop. All-in-all, it was a pretty standard Hogan match. Those usually worked better with monster opponents where Hogan was fighting from underneath, but Valentine clearly had him outmatched here from a technical wrestling standpoint. Not that out-wrestling Hogan is really something to boast about, but Valentine was clever enough and believable enough with it that it didn’t at least come across like the walkover most people probably would expect when they think about what a Hulk Hogan vs. Greg Valentine match would look like. I’ll say this too, Gorilla Monsoon’s announcing really detracted from the match as you could tell it was dubbed-on later, killing any ‘live’ feel the match might have had. Well, besides all the clipping.
Final Rating: *½
$15,000 Bodyslam Challenge
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Big John Studd
Sign of the times: “Kill Big John Studd, Hulk!” That seems a little harsh. I loved the psychology of this one because both guys went for bodyslams immediately to establish Studd’s “I’m the one true giant in wrestling and no man can slam me!” gimmick before Hogan hit his usual routine of his back giving out on a slam attempt. And sure, this isn’t the kind of a match someone looking for all-action “movez~!” would be interested in but hey, Hogan got busted open and Studd even came off the top with an elbow, something I don’t think I can ever remember seeing him do any other time, so it’s not strictly just two 300+ pound guys clubbing each other like you might expect. So there’s psychology, there’s blood and there’s brawling… you know, this was probably the best John Studd match I’ve ever seen actually, and it had a pretty good finish too, at least as far as a lame count-out ending goes. While brawling on the outside, Hogan slammed Studd on the floor then rolled back into the ring, which gave Hogan his win, gave the fans their visual of seeing Studd get slammed, and because the slam happened on the outside, gave Studd and his manager Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan their out – it happened on the floor, ergo it wasn’t an official slam, doesn’t count, and Hogan doesn’t get the bag of money they put up as collateral for slamming him. Incidentally, Howard Finkel did the commentary on this alongside Gorilla Monsoon and was, predictably enough, really rather good at it. I’m not sure why he never did colour commentary more often actually.
Final Rating: *¾
From Tuesday Night Titans, this is the full, uncut version of the infamous segment in which Hogan teaches Vince McMahon and ‘Lord’ Alfred Hayes how to make protein shakes. Hogan mixing fruit in a blender is all very innocent (besides the line about the big banana being “for the girls”) until he and Vince suddenly start gulping down little plastic bags full of pills as if they were pro wrestlers in the mid-1980s or something… Oh.
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. David Schultz
This was a pretty savvy move by the WWF as they muscled into Verne Gagne’s territory with Hogan and Dave Schultz headlining cards in Minnesota off the back of their AWA feud just nine months earlier. Verne put in the work, Vince reaped the rewards. Anyway, this wasn’t your usual Hogan match, in so much as he didn’t spend the first five minutes just blitzing his opponent. Instead it was Schultz who did the blitzing, even busting Hogan open with a steel chair on the outside before Hogan got to mount his big comeback, only to pull Schultz up after the big legdrop. Back on the outside, Hogan lifted Schultz over his shoulder and ran him into the steel ring post, resulting in a crimson payback. Finally, with both guys back in the ring, Schultz got in a token comeback before Hogan blasted him out of nowhere with a lariat for the pin. Mostly just a brawl, but easily the bloodiest match you’ll ever see Hogan have.
Final Rating: *½
Steel Cage Match
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Big John Studd
Interesting side-note: Howard Finkel announced this as a “return match” which is some nice continuity given the finish of the earlier Hogan-Studd match on the tape, although this particular match actually took place eight months earlier than the first one we saw did, albeit for a different region of fans. Unlike the earlier match, this didn’t have the easy ‘bodyslam challenge’ gimmick going for it, and boy was that ever drilled home when Hogan just picked Studd up over his shoulder with absolutely no trouble at all and rammed him head-first into the chicken wire cage. It’s actually kind of a tough match to judge because the match is joined in progress with Studd getting the heat and Hogan already bleeding, and there’s two or three clip jobs on top of that. Coliseum Video did eventually get a lot better in terms of including uncut matches but they were very clip-happy in the early days. So in addition to Hogan’s bleeding, Studd himself gets colour before Hogan slinks out the door after a booting Studd in the face. Like I said, it was tough to judge with all the clipping.
Final Rating: *½
Let’s Shoot, Brother!
Vince McMahon conducts a sit-down interview with Hogan but since this is still the era of strict kayfabe there’s very little of interest said. Just two things of note: firstly, Vince openly throws around the term “professional wrestling” which makes you wonder where the hell he developed all those little eccentricities about ‘sports entertainment’ and saying “superstars” instead of “wrestlers” in the years since. And secondly, there’s Hogan talking about how watching Andre the Giant manhandle smaller guys “turns him on”, which pretty much covers the ‘What the fuck?’ perspective quite nicely.
The Iron Sheik (c) vs. Hulk Hogan
And thus, the WWF completes it’s entire change of course in just five minutes, less than a month after beginning the grand shake-up. Clean-cut All-American Bob Backlund had been WWWF/WWF champion for almost four years (give or take a pair of controversial, unrecognised title changes in matches against Antonio Inoki and Greg Valentine.) Having dethroned the colourful and charismatic ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham, the understated, mat-based Backlund had been Vince McMahon, Sr.’s vision of the perfect world champion. By 1982 though, things were changing. The fans were growing tired of Backlund on top, and McMahon was growing tired of the wrestling business as a whole. McMahon was also getting increasingly sick, and sold the promotion to his son, Vince McMahon, Jr., who set about transforming the wrestling business like nobody had ever dared attempt before. On December 26th, 1982, a routine Backlund title defence at Madison Square Garden resulted in the unthinkable – the unfancied Iron Sheik defeated Backlund for the title after Backlund’s manager Arnold Skaaland threw in the towel while Backlund was trapped in the Sheik’s dreaded camel clutch. With Backlund ‘injured indefinitely’ and unable to meet Sheik in his contractual rematch at the Garden a month later, a new challenger stepped in to attempt to fill Backlund’s shoes. And fill them he did. I still get chills just watching the introductions for this match despite how many times I’ve seen it and despite knowing exactly what’s to come. Sign of the times: “The Sheik is a Freak.” That’s like, poetry, man. Hogan just blitzing Sheik right out of the gate to start is absolutely classic although it was kind of a dickish move on the referee’s part to call for the bell while Sheik was still in his robe. You know, thinking about it, this might be the most famous, energetic, big-time straight-up squash match in wrestling history. I mean, Sheik got almost NOTHING here besides a back breaker, a suplex and Boston crab, and then in probably the most significant, symbolic moment of the match, Hogan simply powers out of Sheik’s camel clutch, the move that had been far too much for previous champion Backlund to handle. Hogan finishes with what was to become a very familiar ending sequence to WWF main events for years to come. Wow, talk about a real changing of the guard. And luckily for our Hulk, Stanley Blackburn’s jurisdiction only covered the AWA so there was to be no handing the title back over as had happened to Hogan so many times in his AWA title matches with Nick Bockwinkel throughout 1983. I think if you listen closely enough, you can just about hear Verne Gagne all the way up in Minneapolis calling Hogan a “Low down, dirty, no good son-of-a-bitch!” Not much of a match, but a legendary one that everyone should see at least once. And don’t you worry, if you plan on watching all the tapes Coliseum Video put out, you’ll be seeing it many, many more times to come.
Final Rating: *½
Summary: A pretty good look at Hogan’s first year as WWF champion here, as Hogan in 1984 was a lot different to Hogan in, say, 1990. Motivated and excited by his first real taste of genuine, big time U.S. success, his matches from this period all have a certain spark to them that they’d eventually come to lack, even if the standard ‘Hogan formula’ was already in place. One final note – the tape closes with this hilarious caption: “The wrestling matches on this cassette have been edited to maximize their entertainment. Careful presentation of the spirit and integrity of the matches has been maintained.” Indeed.