Terry Funk vs. Lanny Poffo
Vince gave Funk a larger degree of cowboy gimmick than he was perhaps used to but Funk just rolled with it. As Lee Maughan mentions elsewhere, Terry was always credible regardless of what he was doing. This is very much a Funk showcase. I get the feeling the WWF thought they were getting a twofer on the Poffo boys and then realised that Lanny wasn’t too good. But they made pretty decent use of him on the whole. Admittedly not yet. This is back in the Leaping Lanny days. Funk is thoroughly unimpressed with all his flippy bullshit and lays in with the chops. Funk had a loose cannon vibe about him and a lot of Pillman’s loose cannon material comes from similar stuff that Funk did. Going after people who were not normally considered targets like cameramen, announcers and ring attendants. It kinda put the fans on edge a bit more because Funk might attack them next. It helps that he’s nuts. He throws Poffo out of the ring and starts screaming “GET UP YOU PIG! PIIIIIIG! PIIIIIIIGG!! PIIIIIIGGG!!” And somehow he still manages to be convincing selling Poffo’s fruity offence. Terry’s approach is quite simple. He just beats Poffo up. There’s no rhythm to it. He just pounds away and hooks whatever limb is nearest. At one point sneaking in the Funk Spinning Toehold only for Poffo to kick him off. Funk suplexes Poffo out the floor with Lanny’s selling making him look like a stroke victim. How did he manage to get one side of his face to twitch like that? Funk gives Poffo some big hope spots on the comeback including a sunset flip where the timekeeper even rings the bell and the half-moonsault. Poffo’s moonsault never had much impact to it. A series of near falls makes for a hot finish. It’s a pity Terry didn’t get someone better to work with. Poffo gets caught in a sleeper and can’t get out, despite using small joint locks. Terry Funk was terrific during his WWF run in the mid 80s but it’s not as fondly remembered as it should be. Mainly because Terry is such a legend that every other phase of his career set the bar so high. That he was able to work a strong match with someone as weak as Poffo tells you everything you need to know about Terry Funk.
Final Rating: **¾
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Randy Savage
This is from near the end of 1985 and during a spell where Savage got a string of title shots. They were all solid matches, and with the chemistry these two had, it’s no wonder the WWF ran a major feud between them eventually. Savage is full of energy, and coffee, and Hogan used to love wrestling him. Mainly because Savage could bump all Hogan’s stuff huge without it looking ridiculous, but also because it allowed Hogan to wrestle a fast-paced match. Which he often couldn’t do because he had challengers who couldn’t keep pace with him and yes, I am praising Hogan for his conditioning. Plus they can work in great spots like Hogan catching Savage off a top rope crossbody. Savage makes a point of hiding behind Liz whenever possible and, for once, Hogan can’t bring himself to punch his way through the valet too. Both guys land big spots. Savage the axe handle to the floor. Hogan the big boot. After the latter Savage goes to hide behind Liz but Hogan picks Liz up and moves her out of the way. Like Obelix and Panacea. She’s as light as a menhir. Savage gets a very near fall off his Flying Elbow and promptly dodges Hogan’s recovery. It’s amazing to see how fast Savage is. It makes Hogan, who was reasonably fast for a main eventer, look like a slug. Savage grabs the belt and busts Hogan open so he can win on count out. The speed and energy of Savage combined with Hogan’s willingness to work with him made for a joyful experience. It doesn’t end at the bell either as Savage steals the belt and wears it down the aisle while carrying Liz to the back. Glorious posing. Hogan recovers and puts a beating on Macho to get possession of the belt back. It’s a funny visual seeing Hogan carry Savage back seconds after Savage carried Liz the same way. Hogan’s blood just adds to a hot angle.
Final Rating: ***
Tuesday Night Titans
Jesse Ventura is the guest. He’s asked about Corporal Kirchner and says he was a Navy SEAL. So Kirchner is a puke, like all army guys. He must be in a bit of a mood as he deadpans everything, more so than usual, and is short and unpleasant. Not his usual charismatic self. The Q&A session features one Phil Burke, whose rambling incoherent question leaves Ventura bemused.
Haiti Kid vs. Butch Cassidy
It’s another goddamn midget match. They should have just put out a Best of Midgets tape and got it out of their system. And the weird thing is, I’d have bought it. I love midgets. But the Best of the WWF? I don’t think so. A midget question; why did they name so many midgets after cowboys? I understand Billy the Kid but Butch Cassidy? I assume its because he’s a really tall midget. He’s not much shorter than the ref. They throw in a few bits of comedy to pass the time but the match just rumbles on. It’s so long, at 10 minutes, as they barely have 5 minutes worth of material. Butch isn’t in Haiti Kid’s league either, which doesn’t help. And their communication blows so Haiti gets murdered with a shoulderbreaker. He does NOT look pleased about that but they immediately follow it with a comedy airplane spin. Haiti takes it with a roll-up. I really didn’t see the need for this. You could argue it breaks up the serious action, but we just came off a TNT segment.
Final Rating: ¼*
Johnny Valiant vs. Ivan Putski
They trawled the archives for this one, from 1975, but you have to wonder why they bothered. Putski was one of the WWF’s North-East ethnic draws, along with Bruno, Pedro, etc, with Putski bringing the support of the Polish fans from New York. Putski is so roided up he can barely move. He looks like he’s been inflated, like a comedy strongman caricature from a cartoon. Valiant sucks in the ring too, so the match is all kick/punch crap aka New York Style. It’s at this point that I’m wondering what the hell happened to the tape? It started out so well. Two solid matches and then a tetchy Ventura, midgets and this shit has dragged it down to an impossibly low standard. There’s no wrestling to speak of until Ivan hits the Polish Hammer and sits on Valiant for the pin. Dire match but I do dig the Polish Hammer. I’m surprised no one has stolen that. If Randy Orton can borrow the Garvin Stomp I’m sure someone can make good use of the Polish Hammer.
Final Rating: ¼*
Advice for the Lovelorn
Lord Alfred Hayes and Vince McMahon discuss romantic differences between the USA and UK. The joke being Vince figures dating is all about the Wild Mambo while Hayes talks about holding hands while wearing gloves. Vince tries to hurry things up by just straight up asking about “intimacy” to which Hayes responds 6-7 months is an acceptable lead in time for a kiss. Considering who was involved this wasn’t horrible. It wasn’t particularly funny but given their collective sense of humour I was expecting something much worse.
Ricky Steamboat vs. Bob Orton Jr.
And here comes Steamboat for the save! This is also available on Best of the WWF Volume #5. If there’s one guy who can rescue a mid 80s WWF tape from sucking the meat missile it’s the Dragon. It helps that Bob Orton is game for selling like a madman. He was a particularly good worker when so inclined. He’s sporting the cast, of course, so Steamboat works the arm over. At length! Orton got plenty of work selling the arm, which he broke earlier in 1985 (this is July), and carried on with the gimmick for years afterwards. Whatever Orton attempts, Steamboat is able to counter with his speed and incredible skill. This is really early in Steamboat’s WWF run and yet he’s already crazy over. No wonder he got a tape release as quick as he did. This could have made up the numbers on it nicely actually, it’s certainly as good as anything else on there. I’m twofold surprised with Orton: 1. That the WWF didn’t push him into bigger matches more often given his propensity to perform in them, and 2. That his career went south so quickly after his WWF departure in 1987. The near falls and countering in this match are terrific. A pre-cursor to the more modern, fast-paced style. Keep in mind this is way before Steamboat’s series with Savage. Even when the match slows down the crowd reactions are huge, appreciative of Orton’s heel work and Steamboat’s ideal babyface approach. Orton loads up the cast and knocks Steamboat out for the DQ. Steamboat was almost always good when he had an opponent who could keep up with him and Orton was on that level. Not on a par with the Savage matches, but then, their stuff was light years ahead of everything else. This match was only decades ahead. It would have worked in front of a crowd in 2001, say.
Final Rating: ***¼
Summary: Shit sandwich. Three quality pieces of bread; Steamboat/Orton at one end and Hogan/Savage plus Funk/Poffo at the other. In between? A delicious faecal spread of the WWF’s choosing. Unfunny skits and woefully inadequate wrestling. Why on God’s green Earth did they dig up an Ivan Putski match from 1975? And why a midget match? And why find the least entertaining footage of Jesse Ventura on record and use that too? The mind boggles. Still, I’ll take three good matches off any 90-minute tape. It’s just, at this point I’m starting to think the “Best of the WWF” title was a bit of a misnomer.