Arnold Furious: This is my first dip into the ‘Best of’ tapes. I must admit I never chased them down back in the day simply because there were so many other comp tapes drifting around the world of tape trading with better matches on. The WWF’s own releases seemed, by comparison, rather mediocre.
Don Muraco vs. Ricky Steamboat
The same feud is covered on Steamboat’s own tape but this match isn’t on it. November 1985 in MSG. Its almost painfully slow as Ricky isn’t quite so driven for revenge because he’s a nice guy. Most people out for revenge do so with closed fists but Steamboat comes with armdrags and a shocking number of rest holds. Steamboat’s front facelock must go on forever because the tape is clipped and its still going on. Muraco is the first guy to make the match interesting, which is a surprise, as he goes after Steamboat’s throat. In a previous encounter Steamboat had been hung over the ropes so the neck is vulnerable. The match shifts up a gear when Muraco throws Steamboat into the ring post and busts him wide open. CRIMSON MASK! A lot of WWF bleeding from the Hogan era is minor but this is a proper gusher. Muraco going after the cut like a sadist, is brilliant too. He loves that Steamboat is hurt because that’s something he can take advantage of. It helps the story too as Steamboat gets cheered for hitting anything and when he mounts a comeback with chops and punches the crowd are with him. Mr. Fuji tries to interject with his cane, which leads directly to the ref being bumped. When he recovers he sees Steamboat breaking the cane over Muraco’s head. In a particularly gory moment Steamboat jabs Muraco in the head with the splintered end of the broken cane. Seeing as the match took place right after the Tully Blanchard match against Magnum TA where the same assault happened, it’s a nice tip of the hat to the NWA. As in ‘we’re not afraid to do that either’. The match was plodding along until Steamboat got busted open. Everything after that was gold. There’s a match on the Steamboat tape called “The Dragon’s Revenge” where nothing of the sort happens. This would have been a far better choice. Much like the “Revenge” match Steamboat loses but he wins the war. The post match continues with Steamboat putting a vicious beating on Muraco. If there’s one thing Muraco could excel at its taking a beating. He takes approximately three beatings here. A bloodied Steamboat staring into camera at the match’s conclusion is accompanied by a roar from the crowd. Wonderful stuff.
Final Rating: ***½
The Hart Foundation vs. The Killer Bees
This is in Canada but the Harts are working heel. Its autumn 1985 so the Harts are fairly new and the Bees are too. It’s a standard tag match with the Bees getting solid pops and Bret making sure the match holds together. After about four minutes the two teams won’t stop brawling so the ref calls it a double DQ. Not sure why this would qualify for a ‘best of’ but it certainly is a weird looking recording. It looks very much like it’s from another company.
Final Rating: *½
The Hart Foundation & Barry O vs. The Killer Bees & Paul Orndorff
As a result of the last match both teams get a third man. The Harts screw themselves by selecting jobber, and Orton family member, Barry O. Orndorff on the other hand is a legitimate main eventer and Hogan’s buddy. Predictably the babyface team wins in short order. As soon as O tags in he’s destroyed by Orndorff. Mr Wonderful sets up O for a Bees dropkick and that’s it. A dismal partner selection from the Harts caused their defeat before they even entered the ring.
Final Rating: SQUASH (Not rated)
WWF Tag Team Championship
The Dream Team (c) vs. The British Bulldogs
This is from September 1985 although you could arguably have picked any match the Bulldogs were in from the second half of 1985 and it’d probably have been a title shot against the Dream Team. They eventually won the titles at WrestleMania II. The Bulldogs are keen to prove a point. They’re faster, better wrestlers and not lacking confidence. The champs essentially take a thrashing for the entire match. Dynamite Kid heads up top to finish but Luscious Johnny V shoves him off for the DQ. While its always nice to see the Bulldogs I’m surprised we ended up with this nothing match instead of one of their better longer matches with the Hart Foundation that were a staple of the WWF at the time. They had already screened one of those on Vol. 3 but this match had also been used already on the tag title release. But then Coliseum Home Video had a weird knack of selecting the exact match you had no interest in.
Final Rating: *
Mr. Fuji and Don Muraco were frequent guests on Tuesday Night Titans and occasionally they did goofy soap opera stuff. This was a General Hospital knock-off. Dr. Muraco almost deliberately tanks the script by reading his lines either directly into camera or off his clipboard. Dr. Fuji, sporting his bowler hat, also feels the need to look straight into camera, but at least has the courtesy to remember his lines. I think. I’m not sure what he’s saying half the time. The segment ends with everybody arguing and the director ripping up the script. Or it should do, but instead we head back to the TNT studios where Vince McMahon and Alfred Hayes ruin everything by overselling it. Nobody could ruin a segment quite like Alfred Hayes.
WWF Women’s Championship
Wendi Richter (c) vs. Leilani Kai
Richter was the WWF’s solution to the women’s division being all old and crusty. Like Hogan blew the cobwebs away with his win over Iron Sheik, Richter took care of ancient former champion the Fabulous Moolah. The former incumbent promptly retired and became the manager of a slew of opponents for the new champ. Kai is one of her girls. This match took place at the War to Settle the Score, with Cyndi Lauper in the champ’s corner. The WWF was well aware that the first WrestleMania needed a big match that would see a face chasing a title so made the decision to switch the belt here. Not that Kai was a big star, a pretty girl or a talented wrestler. She was in the right place at the right time. There is a large section of the WWF’s audience that always fanaticises about the quality of women’s wrestling in this era. As if the lack of model good looks equated to good wrestling. That’s just not true. The finish is tremendous though, as Moolah chokes out Cyndi Lauper leading to Wendi trying to make the save only for Moolah to punch her in the throat and Kai rolls her up for the win. The finish and the angle were hot but what preceded it was pretty awful.
Final Rating: ½*
WWF Women’s Championship
Wendi Richter (c) vs. Spider Lady
The burial of Wendi continues as they show her losing the belt only to show her losing it again. Spider Lady is Moolah in a hood, but Wendi doesn’t know that. Before the match Vince McMahon stuck a contract in front of Wendi and told her to sign it. She refused, because she hadn’t read it, and promised to look it over when the match was finished. Famous last words. Moolah goes out of her way to make Wendi’s moves look like shit and frequently goes for pins where it looks like she’s holding Wendi down. The final one, where Wendi kicks out way before 3, the ref counts anyway. They called this the Original Screwjob on account of Vince doing almost exactly the same thing to Bret Hart over a decade later. Wendi tries to carry on and tears off Moolah’s mask. Moolah doesn’t have the common sense to leave after screwing Wendi so gets TATTOOED with the belt for her troubles. Which is why Shawn Michaels did a runner in 1997. You have to feel bad for Wendi, Vince McMahon made an example of her. She was so distraught she walked out of the building and practically out of wrestling. She worked the territories for a while and popped up in the AWA. Eventually she and the WWF ironed out their grievances and she went into the WWE HOF in 2010.
Final Rating: *
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Tito Santana (c) vs. Jesse Ventura
Jesse was signed up by Vince McMahon as a wrestler but his injuries prevented them running the Hogan feud Vince signed him for so he ended up as a commentator. The best commentator, ever, but still a step down from an in-ring career. He made a comeback in 1985 that tends to get swept under the WWF historical rug, thanks to it not amounting to anything. It’s strange to see one of the ’85 matches make it onto tape. For those who’ve not seen Ventura wrestle, due to him spending his time on commentary since the mid 80s, he’s like an evil mirror universe Hulk Hogan. Begging off instead of Hulking Up. Administering the powerful rest holds rather than absorbing them. Ventura survives the Figure Four by grabbing the ropes so Tito tries it on the ramp instead and both guys get counted out. Not Ventura at his best, given the ring rust from missing a chunk of action. His retirement was probably for the best as he added far more as a commentator than he did as a worker. Of course that’s just my opinion, but Ventura was exceptional as a colour guy.
Final Rating: *½
Big John Studd & The Wild Samoans vs. Andre the Giant, Chief Jay Strongbow, Rocky Johnson & Ivan Putski
We close the tape with this 3 out of 5 falls match from the Philly Spectrum. Rocky’s stuff is fun to watch until he tags out to Andre and the match slows right up. Afa gets tied up in the ropes for a beating and somehow the Samoans are disqualified for it. O…..k. 1-0 Faces. Moments later Strongbow gets headbutted down for 3. The Samoans with those hard heads. 1-1. Much to my annoyance Gary Michael Cappetta comes into the ring to announce each fall thus slowing up the action. Immediately after fall two, Andre big boots Sika from off the apron and Strongbow pins him. 2-1 Faces. The Samoans seem game for selling just about anything and all three of them start flopping around and falling out of the ring, like the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, for Ivan Putski. They get a bit carried away and don’t leave anything for Andre. So much so that when Andre tags in, Samu back bumps over without being hit by anything, which is hysterical. Andre big boots him and sits on him for the pin. This being 1983, Andre is quite mobile and capable of hitting high impact stuff that looked killer. It’s just a pity they ran such a short match considering there were four falls. I could have watched the Samoans get beat up for much longer.
Final Rating: **
Summary: The Muraco-Steamboat stuff is essential because it was one of the bloodiest feuds under Vince Jr’s leadership. Fuji General is good for chuckles and you have to see Wendi Richter getting screwed out of the title for historical reasons. Everything else is a pass and there are some weird choices for a ‘best of’. Harts vs. Bees served no purpose at all. I get they wanted a Ventura match on here, but was this the best one they could find? Likewise the tag at the end. It was decent and I enjoyed it, but the WWF wasn’t living up to its ‘Best of’ tag on the side of the tape.