Arnold Furious: I usually have a quick skip through the matches on these things to see what’s ‘on tap’. Normally I find more than a few matches of potential interest and some others that I’m not sure about. Here, we have literally two matches with potential; Rougeaus vs. Rockers and Demolition vs. Strike Force. The rest of the line-up looks like a cavalcade of crap. But hey, I’ve been wrong before. Maybe Bossman and Sam Houston can prove me incorrect. Gene Okerlund hosts and gives us a tour of a WWF event, but nobody knows who he is. Felt a bit forced but at least it wasn’t ‘Vince McMahon babyface comedy’ bad.
Dino Bravo vs. Ken Patera
From May 1988. Bravo is hopelessly roided up and managed by Frenchy Martin. I’m fairly certain I’ve seen this match before. It might just be that I’ve done a match between them at WrestleFest ’88, which was very similar. Patera misses his standard corner charge only for Bravo to KILL him with a JUMPING PILEDRIVER. And he doesn’t even pin! That’s one of the best finishers I’ve seen from the entire decade and it wasn’t even a near fall. Instead Bravo just uses it to set up his full nelson. At least Bravo works the neck throughout. Even when its just a random piece of clubbing, it’s aimed at the neck. Patera’s offence, by comparison, is all over the place. Random power moves mixed up with flash pins. Maybe his aim is to keep Bravo off guard but he still works toward the full nelson. Frenchie distracts and Bravo finishes with the sideslam, confirming this isn’t the match I’ve already seen… it’s just exactly like it with a slightly different finish. And oddly enough I liked this better than the other match from WrestleFest. By and large because of Bravo’s focus, but the finish was better too.
Final Rating: *
The Big Bossman vs. Sam Houston
From Philly in July ’88. Alfred Hayes makes me laugh by saying that Houston isn’t a criminal, which with the benefit of hindsight is funny. Houston did time for DUIs in 2005, and is a repeat offender. It seems Bossman was just aware of his future law breaking and was punishing him ahead of time. FUTURECOP! The main piece of punishment is Houston getting thrown over the top when he couldn’t reach the ropes. He lands back first across the apron with Billy Graham, on commentary, loudly shouting at Houston that he hit his head on the floor, even though he didn’t. Houston momentarily holds his head before deciding “fuck Billy Graham” and just carrying on. So Bossman headbutts him. No, you WILL sell this head injury. The match is actually pretty good, with Bossman beating the piss out of this little punk. You can believe that the Philly crowd isn’t terribly supportive of a pretty boy babyface in cowboy boots. Graham loudly insists that it’s time for a dropkick, which Houston promptly does. Bossman powerfully kicks out and finishes with a powerslam. Billy Graham cannot mentor for shit! I was proved suitably wrong by this one, as Bossman just put a vicious beating on Houston and he deserved it. I love that Billy Graham was so useless on commentary. It’s like the whole thing was designed to be a rib on him.
Final Rating: **¼
King Haku Coronation
I didn’t care if Haku was king or not. The gimmick didn’t suit him in the slightest. Harley Race was the king of wrestling until getting injured in a match with Hulk Hogan. So Heenan stuck it on Haku instead. When Race returned to try and regain his crown, Haku beat him and Race ended up retiring. Heenan blames the whole thing on the Hulkster. Vince tries his hardest to ruin the segment from his commentary position by explaining stuff, talking over Heenan and so on. Jesse Ventura gets a bit bored and starts talking about Mutiny on the Bounty, which Vince hasn’t seen because he lives wrestling and isn’t aware of a world outside of it. Haku got way more over feuding with John Studd than with this thing. Mainly because he has limited personality.
Back to Gene Okerlund, who still can’t find anyone who knows him. Not to mention a vendor who doesn’t know who Brutus Beefcake is. Sometimes it’s a joke and sometimes it’s just awful.
The British Bulldogs vs. The Bolsheviks
This is also from Philly. The crowd gets a bit confused and chants “U-S-A”, supporting… the ref? Maybe. Bulldogs had fallen way down the WWF’s totem pole and were on their way out. You don’t get effort from them, and the Bolsheviks flat out stink. Dynamite gets picked off, Volkoff hits him with an awful clothesline and that’s the finish? Holy shit! Looks like Dynamite Kid really pissed someone off. It was like Volkoff deliberately botched the finish and here it is on tape for everyone to see. A quite deliberate burial for the once great star. Shameful stuff. I know Dynamite Kid could be insufferable at times, but that’s no reason to job him out.
Final Rating: ¼*
The Rockers vs. The Rougeau Brothers
July ’88 in MSG, so the Rockers must have just debuted. The Rougeaus have started to work as patriotic All-Americans, sucking up to the crowd to get heat, which was innovative and ahead of its time. Speaking of ahead of their time, the Rockers are an outstanding tag team tandem. Not that the Rougeaus are suckers. They have some decent double teams. It’s the Rougeaus, as the borderline heels, who control the pace and pick off Marty Jannetty. Shawn starts to see through their act when he gets the hot tag. The match is all fast paced action, aside from some of the heat on Marty. The finish comes with Shawn going up top and Jacques shoving him off into a painful looking bump on the ropes. Ray scoring the subsequent pin. All action, but it felt a little rushed. The Bulldogs come out to protest and Jacques lays the bad mouth on Dynamite Kid, who promptly punches him. They’d get into worse scuffles backstage but there was bad blood there.
Final Rating: **¾
WWF Intercontinental Championship
The Honky Tonk Man (c) vs. Brutus Beefcake
Peggy Sue is hiding “her” face and carrying a megaphone, so it’s Jimmy Hart. Brutus’ response is to bring out George Steele in drag. Steele rocks the shit out of a Toyah Wilcox wig. The commentators insist on calling Steele “Georgia” and suspect it’s Steele’s sister. Meanwhile, Mine, George’s doll, is also in drag. It’s some serious pantomime level horseplay. The ultimate goal is to kill so much time that both the wrestlers get a night off. That is all fine and dandy for the Boston crowd who get to shout at them, but putting it on a tape? Maybe not the best decision. Beefcake lands an awful lot of punches and very little else. “Peggy Sue” jumps in with the sleeper applied, and gets run off by Georgia. But he leaves the megaphone in there, and Honky makes his own save, bashes Brutus in the head and gets the pin. I’ll give both these guys credit; they did almost nothing here and still got the match over, but it was phenomenally lazy wrestling. Peggy Sue gets stripped to his undies afterwards making the ‘shocking’ reveal that it was Jimmy Hart.
Final Rating: ½*
WWF Tag Team Championship
Demolition (c) vs. Strike Force
This is a famous bout from Oakland and Superstars. These two teams have decent chemistry, as Demolition are all power while Strike Force bring a combination of technical prowess and high flying. When Strike Force are able to make quick tags it’s a fun match but as soon as they hit the formula, on Santana, it loses something. It remains fast paced though, for Demolition anyway, as it’s a shorter TV match. Often TV matches benefit from an enthusiasm you wouldn’t get on house shows. Like the guys involved felt it was a quicker and easier way to get over. Hot tag to Martel as Gorilla starts mixing metaphors; “the tide has swung both ways”. Smash knocks Martel out with a chair shot and Demolition hit their finisher on his corpse ON THE FLOOR! They get an enormous snap on the bump as well and Martel looks DEAD. Fantastic bump. The match was suitably energetic but the finish was out of this world. Brilliant finish for 1988 and it helps that Martel sold the hell out of it. Martel’s wife was sick and he needed time off to look after her, so they came up with this to put him out for 8 months, before returning and then turning on Tito at WrestleMania V, becoming the Model.
Final Rating: ***
Andre the Giant vs. Hacksaw Jim Duggan
I don’t quite see the sense in an Andre match with lumberjacks. It’d take five guys to shove him back in the ring. Maybe more. Although it might be suitable, because both wrestlers look a bit like lumberjacks. I can imagine them out in the forests, hacking down trees. This being 1988, Andre is in rough condition. The pacing is slow and meticulous because of that. Andre stops off to deride Duggan’s “hoooooo” catchphrase and then sits on him. This provokes Duggan into the superman comeback, Andre ties himself up in the ropes and Duggan lays a bearded beatdown on him, as if he’s a real lumberjack trying to hack down a redwood. Andre exposes a buckle only to headbutt it by accident. Three Point Stance can’t knock Andre over though, which is the problem with wrestling a giant. Hacksaw opts for the 2×4, which does put Andre down and out. But, as I stressed at the top, the lumberjacks CAN’T get Andre back in. Andre ends up returning by himself, smashing Duggan into the exposed buckle and dropping an elbow for the win. The match was well structured and had a surprising amount of effort from both guys, but ultimately their limitations prevented it from being a great contest.
Final Rating: *¾
Summary: A couple of the matches were better than expected, but some of the selections were bizarre. Why even bother with Dino Bravo and Ken Patera in 1988? What’s the point? Also, Gene Okerlund’s segues, where no one knew who he was, got tiresome after the opening and we’re subjected to four of these during the course of the tape. All with the same one joke. On the whole it’s not a bad tape, as everything that doesn’t work is short and it flew by when I was watching it. There have certainly been worse ‘best of’ tapes.