Arnold Furious: The WWF would be the first to admit, or they should be anyhow, that their “Best Of” comps from the 80s were anything but. They often included a couple of good matches and then raided the vault for random crap to pad the tape release out. Matches they had no intention of using anywhere else, ever again. A worrying trend that’s about to be completely reinforced by the Best of the WWF Vol. 8…
Gene Okerlund presents and points out the WWF puts out 12,000 hours of original footage per year. This tape represents the “best” of it. The rest of the footage must have sucked balls.
The Hart Foundation vs. The Killer Bees
The salvation of WWF videotape releases is often the worker heavy tag division and in this particular case, future WWF champion Bret Hart. To my chagrin, Alfred Hayes contributes his knowledge and experience on commentary. The word is “fast”, there’s no “r” in there. The Bees work reverse heat on Anvil, which just confuses the shit out of the MSG crowd, who are usually open to change. And it really is reverse heat too with the ref not allowing the Harts to tag as Bret doesn’t have his feet on the ground. As that segment finishes Bret chinlocks the match to death. Bret works in a spot where he slips off the ropes, which if it was intentional, and I think it was, then it was ingenious stuff. Anvil gets a tag and it’s back to the chinlock before switching up to an even duller bearhug. The Harts do throw in some nice double teams to break it up but they keep insisting on rest holds. It does get heat but its sure boring to watch. Compare this to the Brainbusters work and there’s really no comparison. Bret does add urgency to proceedings by throwing in his Five Moves of Doom and slamming Brunzell on the floor to really piss off the New Yorkers. More heat on Brunzell follows and by now the Harts have got their mojo going and it’s better stuff. More frequent tags and double teaming with less resting. Brunzell has gotten his dropkick over, although it’s not a finisher, it’s enough for the crowd to pop the shit out of him nailing Bret with it. If you need a guy to sell your big move, it’s Bret Hart. He gets snap in his bumps the same way guys like Dynamite Kid get snap in their offensive moves. The Harts continue to abuse formula but they miscue on the familiar Irish whip double team. Anvil usually spears his opponent in the corner but here Bret gets whipped in and front turnbuckles it. Brunzell crawls through the clumsy Anvil’s legs and gets the hot tag. Crowd going NUTS by the way. The match really took off after the slam on the floor and the hot tag was the inevitable culmination of the all that. It’s kinda weird that this match runs nearly 20 minutes and has no clips. Coliseum loved clipping stuff and the first half of this match could have used some. Brunzell lands his dropkick again, but the time limit expires. The first half of the match is real slow but the second half is awesome. Interesting that the ref actually counted Bret down, as the timekeeper was too slow ringing the bell.
Final Rating: ***¼
And now an experiment as the WWF presents some of its new faces in 1986. It’s a one-off that didn’t feature again on Coliseum Video… and with good reason! Prepare to be astounded by some of the guys the WWF hired in 1986 when their top tier storylines were at a creative peak.
Danny Spivey vs. Terry Gibbs
And what better way to showcase Spivey than by joining a match in progress with the fans chanting “boring”. Sensational editing decision. Spivey originally came in to replace Barry Windham in the US Express, only for Mike Rotundo to quit the WWF and leave Spivey in singles. Frankly, Spivey wasn’t much use in 1986 and it wasn’t until he started working for All Japan a couple of years later that he really matured as a worker. He does have a good look though and with the right gimmick, like Mark Callaway got, he could have gotten over. Not against Gibbs though, who he gives too much of the match to, as he’s a glorified jobber who’s offence is pretty dull. Spivey’s offence makes no sense either. He hip tosses out of a bearhug for Christ sake. Who does that? He also seems obsessed with hitting an elbow drop, which then only gets two. Then he bizarrely drops the big leg, a’la Hogan, for 2 before finishing with a bulldog instead. Spivey was a bit of a mess. He would get better by working for NWA and AJPW, but in 1986’s WWF, it was hard to stand out. Their talent roster was deep and without that polish, Spivey just looked like a Hulk Hogan wannabe.
Final Rating: *
Billy Jack Haynes vs. Moondog Rex
Haynes was another new addition to the roster and another completely unwelcome one. He’d had a cup of coffee in the WWF before, a few years earlier, but got the boot for being too green. This run would last slightly longer, at around 2 years, although constituted one massively overextended and incredibly bad set of matches with Hercules. Rex blades for no reason and they start blowing moves so Haynes finishes with a full nelson. The Boston Garden crowd politely boo the babyface victory. Once again, a remarkable piece of video editing to ensure that crowd reaction was captured. Haynes looks downright sheepish getting his hand raised. The replays don’t help and they show how badly blown the clothesline was that set up the finish. Completely mistimed.
Final Rating: ¼*
The Junkyard Dog vs. King Kong Bundy
This is about 2 months after Bundy jobbed to Hogan at WMII, thus ending his usefulness as a main-eventer. JYD remains a high card face despite the WWF having no intention of using him in any important angles. He was just a featured superstar. Another name for them to reel out when hyping shows. He had feuds but there never seemed to be much effort involved. It felt like Heel A wants to feud with JYD, so they feud. JYD wins. Now Heel B wants to feud with JYD. Why? Not important. That’s how the booking came off until he had a genuine feud with Harley Race. This match is horrible, in case you were wondering. Neither guy can be bothered. The punches look really fake. The selling doesn’t work. Eventually they just give up and Bundy slaps on a chinlock. MSG is not impressed. As part of the reviewing process I promised not to fast-forward anything but this match would be a candidate for FFWD if I was. The camera misses Heenan tripping JYD and that’s the finish because it’s a DQ. One of the worst matches you’re ever likely to see. Painfully bad in every respect. Two guys who didn’t give a shit, throwing lame looking punches at each other for 10 minutes. They even screw up Bobby Heenan’s trademark post match bump because Bundy can’t get the timing right.
Final Rating: -*
Jimmy Jack Funk vs. Tony Garea
And now a feature match for Jimmy Jack Funk! A guy who got signed because Terry quit the WWF. Unfortunately Jimmy Jack is nowhere near the Funk level of wrestling. Although his brother was phenomenally talented. That’d be Art Barr. Garea had a lengthy spell as a jobber after a run of tag team success earlier in his career. Vince Junior only seemed interested in his ability to make other people look better than they were. Enhancement is important too. They make a huge mess of the setup for a powerslam and that’s the finish.
Final Rating: DUD
Tangent: The weird selection process is in clear evidence here. Both of the last two matches came from the same 14/6/86 card in MSG. It’s a bit lazy taking two matches from one card to make up matches on a “Best Of” tape but there are more matches (plural) to come from that same card. The main event of which was the only decent match all night; Savage & Adonis vs. Sammartino & Santana, which appears on Savage’s tape. Not content with pillaging this show for FOUR matches for Best of the WWF Vol. 8 they also raided it for a midget match for Best of the WWF Vol. 9. I assume some shows weren’t taped at all, but there was a Maple Leaf Gardens show the following night that featured matches from several of the same guys and it was headlined by The Harts vs. The Bulldogs. You’d think they’d want to showcase main events and over random midcard matches on these tapes. It all seems so thrown together and pointless. Ok, back to the grindstone.
Harley Race vs. Lanny Poffo
Another “newcomer” feature, this one on Harley! Although they do acknowledge he’s been in the business for 20 years… elsewhere. No mention of the NWA! He introduces himself to the audience, the same one as the last two matches, as it’s another bout from 14/6, by nearly killing Poffo with a brainbuster on the floor. And it’s not the finish! What the hell, man? That’s a 90s All Japan spot right off the bat. Not content with that, he bumps Poffo on the floor again. To give Lanny time to recover, we clip ahead to a point where he’s not completely dead. Poffo is a weird guy because he used to do moonsaults and ranas and shit like that, but he did ‘his’ version of them and more often than not they were just really sloppy low-impact versions. Harley finishes with the Perfectplex. I enjoyed seeing Poffo get brutalised, and if Harley had been this vicious during his whole WWF run it might be more fondly remembered. Yanno, if he just brought that Southern ass-kickery in and ignored the rules, doing brainbusters on the floor and murdering people up, I think it would have gotten over. Obviously the match isn’t great, because its Race when he’s old and Poffo as a babyface, but you have to give them points for effort.
Final Rating: **
Big John Studd’s Bodyslam Challenge
Studd faces two jobbers who want to slam him for the $15k. One is Ricky Hunter and the other is Jim Powers. They’re interrupted by King Tonga, the future Haku, who wants a shot. The jobbers attempt a double team but get shrugged off. Hunter has some decent forearms but Studd slams him for the pin. Tonga has seen enough and runs back in to SLAM the big man. The crowd are completely freaked out, and a star is born.
Big John Studd vs. King Tonga
Given that he’s slammed Studd, Tonga now gets a match with the gargantuan heel. Simple booking. This is yet another bout from the 14/6 show at MSG. Tonga, having shown a degree of common sense in setting this match up, runs right into a giant sized beating. Basically Studd’s opponents get obsessed with the slam and the $15k, which is clever work from Bobby Heenan when you think about it. Studd just avoids the slam, as he’s become accustomed to, and is able to pick his spots. In order to keep Tonga strong they finish with a double count out where he goes toe-to-toe with Studd, and they punch the bejesus out of each other. Are you watching Bundy and JYD? Not much of a match but at least they went full tilt at it. Plus it changed the crowd’s perception of Tonga for good. This feud made him. I love that Studd takes ages to back down, forcing Tonga to earn his respect, which works perfectly. Plus if you ever wanted to see Haku dance, this the match for you. Oh, but that’s not it. Tonga dancing enrages Studd so he jumps back in there and they beat the crap out of each other again. This time Tonga wins with a headbutt, and the crowd love it. Great booking.
Final Rating: *½
Ted Arcidi vs. Terry Gibbs
Another newcomer feature: Ted Arcidi. Yay. Arcidi was a borderline useless muscleman. He treated wrestling as if basically involved lifting his opponent. This isn’t from the same 14/6 show but instead comes from February 1986. Arcidi treats Gibbs like the jobber he is and finishes with a bearhug, as its one of the few wrestling holds that involves just lifting someone and nothing else.
Final Rating: DUD
Hercules Hernandez vs. Cousin Junior
The feature is on Herc, who’s rocking a full beard. Junior was one of Wrestling’s Country Boys. The one they hired to wrestle instead of the fat, useless Uncle Elmer. Seeing as he’s just a beard in dungarees, they could have named him Spongles the Wrestling Chimp and he would have gotten the same level of success. I almost feel sorry for him because it’s a complete mismatch. It’s like some hayseed who’s only ever seen wrasslin -or scufflin’ as the Country Boys called it- on TV, walked into a wresting company. Then they put him in with a muscular bastard who likes picking on hicks. There are times when Junior takes a bump and he looks in pain. It’s like watching someone beat up Zach Galifianakis’ character in the Hangover. Don’t let the beard fool you, he’s really a child. Junior was the best wrestler of the Country Boys but that doesn’t mean much. He blows his comeback with an O’Connor roll that’s so badly screwed up, that I half expected Pat O’Connor’s zombie to do a run-in and crack open his skull. Herc rightfully counters it, as Junior tries to figure out the mechanics of the move, and gets the pin. Quite awful but perversely entertaining.
Final Rating: ½*
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Pedro Morales (c) vs. Adrian Adonis
Thankfully the “newcomers” feature part ends, and we get a classic IC title bout from March 1982. Albeit clipped to the last few minutes. Morales was usually pretty easy on the eyes providing his opponents bumped around for him. Luckily Adonis is one of those guys. He’s a lot slimmer than in the majority of his Coliseum matches too, because it’s before his weight just ballooned. Adonis tries to finish with a sloppy back suplex but Pedro gets his shoulder up and Adonis pins himself. Man, that finish gets recycled all the time.
Final Rating: ½*
Pat Patterson vs. Captain Lou Albano
Another weird choice, because this is from the same card as the last match. There’s a match on the last ‘Best Of’ tape where Albano wrestled Arnold Skaaland, which has a similar setup to this. But instead of Albano using his foreign object for 10 minutes before losing it, he drops it at the bell. Pat slaps him around with it for all of a minute before Albano gets himself counted out. Albano managed to tap an artery and bleed everywhere in that one minute.
Final Rating: ¼*
Jake Roberts vs. Ricky Steamboat
One of the many matches Jake and Steamboat had in their 1986 feud. The weird thing is they were all very different matches. This one sees Jake alternating between going for the DDT and being hit in the chest with chops. Some of the spots are really smart, like Jake countering just about everything Steamboat tries by punching him in the face. Whether it’s a sunset flip or sliding through Jake’s legs. Punch in the face. Or rock smashes flipping, if you’d rather. Steamboat flips Jake into the corner for his corner bump and works the neck. Jake punches his face again and tries for another DDT on the concrete floor. No pretty blue mats. Steamboat is more familiar with the DDT after taking one though and slips out. Jake gets cut open on the rail and Steamboat, in a rare display of viciousness, hacks away at the cut with punches. The ref almost gets in the way but Steamboat backdrops out of the DDT. It’s all about counters and counters to those counters. Both guys were, in psychology and recognition terms, years ahead of the WWF. These spots would be staples of WWF classics in years to come. The ref gets bumped, again, and decides he’s had enough and disqualifies both guys. I am angered and saddened by the cheap finish but the match was awesome. It could easily have hit four stars or higher if it had reached a logical conclusion. This is probably the most energetic of their matches too, but I can only presume that’s because it’s a lot shorter.
Final Rating: ***
Summary: I could have lived without the experimental format. The addition of the “newcomers” segment really didn’t help the tape. The only part of it that was worthwhile saw King Tonga make a splash against John Studd. Excellent booking in their feud. The tape was also bookended by two excellent bouts. A lengthy one from the Harts and a quickie from Roberts and Steamboat. Another mixed bag from Video Control. Although there was less “control” here and more “I’ve got a tape of a June ’86 MSG show… let’s just show the matches from that in a different order. That’ll give us more time to snort cocaine”. And the rest is history.