WWF Intercontinental Championship
Macho Man Randy Savage (c) vs. Ricky Steamboat
This is from summer 1986 with Savage in the midst of his IC title run that would eventually be ended by Steamboat. It’s also during a two year spell where Savage was the best wrestler in the company. These two have a natural chemistry that happens when two great wrestlers collide, which was evidenced by their five star match at WrestleMania III the following year. The fluidity of the sequences is magnificent. Like a Savage kickout leading right into a Steamboat armdrag. All in one motion. The Toronto crowd pop big for all the near falls, which were a trademark of these great matches. This match doesn’t have the intensity of WrestleMania III but then Savage hadn’t tried to kill Steamboat with the ring bell at this point, so the rivalry is more civil. Savage is the first to adopt dirty tactics and after being thrown over the top to the floor Steamboat gets noticeably more aggressive. This is evident as he throws Savage into the front row and then busts Randy’s head open on the ring post. That was the great thing about Ricky Steamboat; when he was given suitable motivation by a heel’s approach, he stepped up his game. Due to his extensive martial arts experience, that anger was tempered with control. It made Steamboat one of the most dangerous babyfaces of the era. Most faces could have their anger turned against them, but Steamboat has enough mental control to still see the openings for inside cradles and backslides. Savage goes to his (ball)bag of tricks and pulls out an International Object. He punches Steamboat IN THE EYE. So not only is he hurt, he also can’t see, but his instincts feel Savage coming and he backdrops the champ to the floor. Great sequence. Not content with the wrestling, the blood and the storytelling, they amp it up into a brawl, but Savage’s back gives out when he tries to slam Steamboat on the floor. Steamboat beats the count but Savage doesn’t and Ricky takes the win but not the strap. Awesome match and you could see the beginnings of WMIII. If they have more matches of this quality in the archives, the WWF could easily do a feud tape for Savage and Steamboat like they did with Bret and Shawn.
Final Rating: ****
The Hart Foundation vs. The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff
This is also from summer 1986 and is a heel vs. heel tag clash. The second time they’ve managed to find one featuring Sheik & Volkoff to go on a Best Of release. As per usual, the crowd side against Sheik & Volkoff, which is a testament to their heeldom. The Harts solidify their babyface status, for one match anyway, by jumping Volkoff during the Russian national anthem. It makes sense when you think about it, because they’re heels. Slick is Sheik & Volkoff’s manager here and it must be one of his first outings in the role. Fred Blassie’s failing health had him giving up some of his managerial work, with this team being the first to go. Again, this shows the WWF’s long term booking intentions, as the Harts are blatantly a face team at heart and this shows how it’d work. It’s much like the last bout, where Savage and Steamboat showed in one match the potential for a longer feud. 1986 was such a good year for the WWF’s booking. This isn’t one of the Harts best matches, because Volkoff flops around in there like a gigantic Russian fish, but it does show what they were capable of in the babyface arena. Check out the reaction for when Anvil breaks up the Camel Clutch with a big forearm smash. The match is better with Bret in there, as Anvil can’t cope with Volkoff, he just can’t figure out his selling. Anvil tries for a really obvious slam near the ropes and Sheik trips him up for Volkoff to land on top. This was much more fun than it had any right to be.
Final Rating: **¼
Boot Camp Match
Corporal Kirchner vs. Nikolai Volkoff
Oh the horror! Two Volkoff matches in a row. Kirchner’s career in the WWF stemmed almost entirely from Vince discovering he used to be in the 82nd Airborne. Prior to that he was a jobber. This is another match from summer 1986. The Boot Camp match got over in the 80s but the WWF kinda ran it into the ground by using it in feuds between people who weren’t much good. The ‘No Holds Barred’ aspect was retained but under different names. Speaking of ‘No Holds Barred’ the biggest reaction is for a HUGE Volkoff knee to Kirchner’s groin. You can hear the men in the crowd gasp with shock. Kirchner does a really obvious bladejob under the ring apron to set up a lame chair shot from Volkoff. Gorilla starts running through the clichés. Kirchner is immediately “busted wide open” and has the “crimson mask” although it’s a mid-level gig at best. That’s not the match’s only flaw. Kirchner’s bumps are weird; they don’t seem to have any bearing on the move he’s been hit with. Volkoff’s bumps are just as bad with him flopping around in an uncoordinated fashion. It makes you wonder why they booked these two against each other. Although, their chemistry is way better than I thought it’d be. Kirchner pulls off one of his boots and waffles Volkoff with it for the pin. Both guys suck hard but worked together well. The finish makes me laugh because Kirchner used his boot and Volkoff is camp. An appropriate match for them to compete in then.
Final Rating: *¼
Andre the Giant, Jimmy Snuka & Junkyard Dog vs. Jesse Ventura, Big John Studd & Ken Patera
This is right before the first WrestleMania, where Andre and Studd faced each other in a bodyslam match. The heels try to work heat on JYD but it keeps breaking down into a donnybrook. Seeing Ventura work in 1984 makes me think he probably retired at the right time. He was a little broken down and couldn’t take a decent bump anymore. His personality took him a long way but he was ideal as an announcer. Can you imagine all those PPV broadcasts with another man alongside Gorilla Monsoon? Because it probably would have been Alfred Hayes or Gene Okerlund. It just wouldn’t have been the same at all. With all the talent in this one, it’d work almost regardless of who the match focused on. Unless it was Patera. And this match focuses almost solely on Patera. Firstly as he wastes time stalling, and in a six-man that’s unforgiveable, but then he eats up time with bearhugs and shit like that. The crowd reaction is telling as they ignore most of the match but pop like crazy for Andre against Studd, which has a storyline attached. Especially when they tease Studd being slammed. Poor Jesse gets picked off by Andre, and the Superfly Splash finishes. Bits and pieces of it worked, but all the Patera antics ruined it. Andre vs. Studd as a cameo was gold, because they could do their 30 seconds of material and then move on. The crowd ate it up.
Final Rating: *½
Big John Studd & King Kong Bundy vs. King Tonga & Sivi Afi
This is after Tonga slammed Studd and got himself over. Studd & Bundy had formed a strong team of giants that faced off against top card faces in tags. Despite booking Tonga’s initial success against Studd perfectly, they couldn’t really follow up on it. Therefore Tonga, instead of breaking out, found himself mired in the midcard. One would suspect it’s all about paying dues. Studd bosses him for a while until Tonga SLAMS HIM AGAIN! Sivi Afi isn’t one of the better known Samoans and with good reason. His timing isn’t up to scratch and his moves look a bit weird. His WWF career probably came about from wrestling NWA champ Ric Flair to an hour draw in Hawaii the previous year. But as soon as he got to the WWF, he found himself in the typical Samoan mould. He is more Snuka than the Wild Samoans, which is better for his popularity. Bundy beats Tonga with a kneedrop even though Tonga kicked out and Bundy knew damn well it wasn’t the finish. Stupid ref. I’m not sure they really knew what was happening here. Who was this match designed to get over? Bundy didn’t need to win. Studd & Tonga had the issue but Tonga jobbed to Studd’s partner, and not even a big finish. So effectively they killed the feud without even blowing it off. I blame the ref.
Final Rating: *½
Cowboy Lang vs. Lord Littlebrook
This is from that same 14/6/86 card in MSG that featured so heavily on Best of the WWF Vol. 8. Littlebrook knows all the midget monkeyshines like strutting around, and the bits of comedy. Like many midget bouts from the 70s and 80s, there’s much biting of the ass. Lang wins with a rolling cradle. I’m tempted to go higher because Lang reminds me of Peter Dinklage, but he still committed too much ass-biting.
Final Rating: ¼*
And we finish with a $50k battle royal with 22 participants. Jimmy Hart scampers under the ring before we even start and the entire rest of the ring gangs up to throw out both Studd and Bundy. Tactics! After that the ring is full and nothing interesting is happening, which makes it like every battle royal, ever. We get the odd glimpse of Jimmy Hart under the ring to remind us he’s still there. A few guys get tossed out and we look back under the ring. Yeah, he’s still there. The most interesting thing in the entire match is a manager hiding under the ring. That’s how you know your match sucks. Harley Race going out is a bit of a surprise at the halfway stage. That really only leaves the Bulldogs, Dream Team, Pedro Morales and JYD that are of any use. Davey completely fails to save Dynamite Kid. He’s standing RIGHT THERE as DK gets thrown over the top, and he does nothing. It makes no sense at all. I’m guessing he wasn’t supposed to be there. Hammer gets rid of Pedro. Brutus gets thrown out and everyone is face apart from Hammer so they all go after him and he starts throwing people out! Billy Jack Haynes out! King Tonga out! STOP! Hammer time! Davey Boy Smith out! All dumped by Greg Valentine. Final Four: Greg Valentine, JYD, Lanny Poffo & Jimmy Hart (under the ring). Battle Royal king Hammer throws Poffo out. He’s just taken out FOUR babyfaces in quick succession. JYD suddenly remembers Hart, and throws him back in. JYD and Valentine eliminate each other and Jimmy Hart takes the win. Crowd is NOT impressed. The match stank until Valentine went on a babyface killing rampage from which there was no escape. I’ve never seen a normal sized heel dominate a battle royal like he did here. It’s worth seeing just for that.
Final Rating: **
Summary: Savage vs. Steamboat gives the tape an automatic win. Everything else was ok, midget match aside, and nothing stunk the place up. Major kudos to CHV for putting out a tape with a Savage-Steamboat match on it though. I can’t thank them enough. BOTWWFV9 is one of those tapes that you could show to a modern audience to try and explain what 80s wrestling was like. It was an attempt at the “something for everyone” mentality that Vince McMahon had used since taking over the WWF. Early variety however was midgets, blood and Battle Royals. Hey, that should totally be the title of someone’s book! Even back in the 80s, the people who put these tapes together realised there were workrate freaks out there who’d dig a match like Steamboat-Savage, but were also aware they weren’t the core audience. Hence the variety. Sadly not all WWF releases had the apologetic workrate match on them. It should have been a law or something.