#WF063 – The Brains Behind The Brawn

Lee Maughan: Introduced by ‘Mouth of the South’ Jimmy Hart, but hosted by Sean Mooney.

 

BOBBY “THE BRAIN” HEENAN
They certainly didn’t bother saving the best for last, did they? According to Mooney, Heenan “took athletes like The Red Rooster and The Brooklyn Brawler and moulded them into winners.” Heenan explains that he gave Terry Taylor the name ‘rooster’, because he wanted him to be cocky. Well cock-a-doodle-doo.

 

We begin with the classic Piper’s Pit segments that set up the Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant WWF title match at WrestleMania III, although with Hogan and Andre the centrepieces of it all, plus Roddy Piper and Jesse Ventura stirring the shit up, the focus only really lands on Heenan when he comes out on the final edition and announces himself as Andre’s new manager. He has more to say at the contract signing, and that leads to that match, thankfully clipped down to the last 60 seconds or so given the amount of times this particular match was regurgitated for other Coliseum Video releases. After Andre’s defeated, Heenan rides off down the aisle in a little motorised ring-cart, head buried firmly in hands. (For a full recap of all this stuff in full, check out my review of Hulkamania 3)

 

Fast forward to 1988, and Heenan has brokered a deal with ‘The Million Dollar Man’, Ted DiBiase. DiBiase brags about his new acquisition – his own personal slave, Hercules. It turns out DiBiase had bought Hercules’ contract from Heenan, but this is apparently news to Hercules, who attempts to choke out Heenan. With his back turned, DiBiase smashes him right in his external occipital protuberance with a briefcase full of money, turning Hercules babyface and setting up the Hercules-DiBiase house show program.

 

After a match, Heenan calls for a female member of the audience to volunteer for a ‘Rude Awakening’ with ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude. Heenan picks a blonde girl, and she makes out with Rude. This was more Rick’s gimmick than Heenan’s, and the logical choice for inclusion would have been the angle with Rude unknowingly hitting on Cheryl Roberts, wife of Jake ‘The Snake.’

 

From the 1989 Royal Rumble, Rude and The Ultimate Warrior have their ‘Super Pose-Down.’ Much like the Dino Bravo bench press angle from the previous year’s Rumble, this drags on for a lifetime before the real angle kicks in, with Rude smashing Warrior over the head from behind with a workout bar after the crowd predictably votes Warrior the winner. Mercifully, the actual posing was clipped down to the fourth and final round here, just leaving Rude’s beatdown.

 

To Saturday Night’s Main Event where Heenan and Jesse Ventura mutually bury The Red Rooster as a wrestler with limited strength, limited skills, limited speed and limited ability, but at least possessing one thing that has made him undefeated in the WWF: Heenan’s brain.

 

Tito Santana vs. The Red Rooster
Tito Santana is a guy who should really go down in history as one of the most consistent workers the wrestling business ever saw. Seriously, when was the last time you even saw the guy have a bad match? And having only suffered one major injury in his career (a knee problem in 1984 that required surgery), he managed to keep himself in such tremendous physical condition that he was still having respectable matches on his occasional independent appearances in his late 50s and early 60s. Including a short-but-fairly notable steel cage match against long time nemesis Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine, on rap group Insane Clown Posse’s Juggalo Championship Wrestling internet pay-per-view event Legends & Icons in August of 2011. Some 17 years after Santana and Valentine’s legendary feud over the WWF Intercontinental title.

‘Red Rooster’ Terry Taylor meanwhile was another dependable worker although his peak had been as a babyface with Bill Watts’ Mid-South/UWF group from 1984-1986. He’d debuted in the WWF with a dark match loss to a pre-‘Mr. Perfect’ Curt Hennig, before beginning on TV as ‘Scary’ Terry Taylor, turning on his tag team partner Sam Houston (the half-brother of Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts) after a loss on Prime Time Wrestling to The Conquistadors. Under the guidance of Heenan, Taylor became The Red Rooster for reasons largely unknown (although some people in the industry suspected it may have been a rib on Taylor) and went on a long undefeated streak as a bottom-rung member of the Heenan Family.

So naturally, this being the World Wrestling Federation, the focus is taken off the match featuring two of the promotion’s most dependable in-ring performers of the day, and instead placed on Heenan, who’s at ringside wearing a microphone. Admittedly, they did at least pick the best possible guy to mic up for this for two key reasons. One being that Heenan is just about the most believable wrestling manager you’ll ever hear in the things he says and the coaching he gives, and the other is that, well, he’s Bobby Heenan, and he’s a goddamn riot. In fact, at one point he even goes over to ringside for a conversation with New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who suggests Heenan fire Taylor, as the lightning-fast Heenan retorts “I’ve got a ring full of Winfield”, in reference to then-Yankee Dave Winfield who Steinbrenner signed to a 10-year, $23 million contract in 1981, mistakenly believing to have signed him for $16 million, kicking off the most bitter public feud in baseball history. This eventually resulted in Steinbrenner being “banned for life” from running the Yankees, for paying Mafia-connected gambler Howie Spira $40,000 to provide him with embarrassing information on Winfield. Ultimately the ban only lasted two years.

To be honest though, the actual in-ring action only falls somewhere between average and good as, with a babyface turn looming, the Rooster plays it right down the line like a good old fashioned white meat blue-eye, drawing Heenan’s ire. Heenan’s visible (and audible) frustration is fabulous, and a damn sight better than when Sensational Sherri and Jimmy Hart both did the mic-ed up manager gimmick for Coliseum Video releases a couple of years later, not to mention light years ahead of the Prime Time Players’ agent A.W., who’s “Yeah! Get ‘im! Kick ’em! Come on, man!” warblings were never anything more than an irritating deterrent on Raw years later, especially in light of the fact his team of Darren Young & Titus O’Neil were still too green (or just too flat out stupid) to even grasp the basic concept that they should have done whatever A.W. told them to do in order to get the gimmick over. Still, despite Heenan’s considerable talents, this still went on a couple of minutes too long (a seven minute match that would have been better served as five, given what they were aiming for and the fact Heenan had already made his frustrations clear about 90 seconds into the match), although if they really wanted it to run through a commercial break (as it did on the original Saturday Night’s Main Event broadcast), it might have been better served to have had the Rooster get some heat on Santana but give up his advantage, giving Heenan more of a reason (justifiable or otherwise) to fly of the handle. Finally, with Santana getting a roll-up for the match-winning pin after Heenan and Rooster had had a shoving match on the outside and Heenan had aggressively thrown the Rooster back into the ring, Heenan just berates Rooster and even goes so far as to smack him square across the chops, which leads to Rooster finally manning (poultry-ing?) up and he just absolutely slaps the shit out of Heenan whose bumping ability could put even the great Curt Hennig to shame. ‘The Brain’ could seriously do it all. Sadly, he wouldn’t learn his lesson here, despite the colossal shit-kicking, and would go on to berate Andre the Giant in similar fashion after Andre and Haku had lost the tag team titles to Demolition at WrestleMania VI, just over a year later.

 

On Prime Time Wrestling, Heenan apologises to the Rooster, claiming that some people react differently to positive encouragement or admonishment, saying he used the wrong kind of psychology to motivate Taylor. Heenan offers a handshake which Rooster accepts, but Heenan slaps him across the chops as long-time enhancement wrestler Steve Lombardi re-emerges as The Brooklyn Brawler, cracking Rooster in the back of the head with a wooden stool before shockingly nailing Prime Time Wrestling co-host Gorilla Monsoon in the back with the stool, putting him down too. Brawler then throws Rooster into an off-set locker, slams him practically through it, and chokes him out at Heenan’s behest. This was actually an extremely rare example of an angle occurring on Prime Time as opposed to the syndicated Superstars of Wrestling show, and despite only serving to set up a bottom of the card feud between two guys who had been presented as geeks up until this point, this was a an absolutely killer angle.

 

JIMMY HART
Jimmy apparently has a computer system to scout his opponents. Perhaps he should have been managing Michael Wallstreet. Come to think of it, he eventually did.

 

Bret Hart vs. Steve Lombardi
With Bret’s popularity on the rise (the WWF routinely received huge amounts of fan mail for Bret, a rarity in an era when very few heels were able to build a fanbase of any kind), a plan was put into motion to turn him (and, by association, his tag team partner Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart) babyface. So, with Bret and Bad News Brown the final two men left in the ring at the end of WrestleMania IV‘s opening match Battle Royal, they made a pact to share the victory (and the trophy that comes along with it) only for Bad News to double-cross Bret when Bret turned his back, and dump him over the top to the floor, claiming the win for himself. Naturally, because this is professional wrestling, Bret smashed the trophy to pieces to cement his face turn and set up the Bret-Bad News ‘Stampede reunion’ program for the summer house show run. Obviously, there are still two lingering issues here. The first being that only those who ordered WrestleMania IV on pay-per-view would have seen the turn, the second being the continued presence of Jimmy Hart as The Hart Foundation’s manager. He certainly wasn’t going to be turning face with the team, so here’s where we kill two birds with one stone as, on a nationally syndicated broadcast, Jimmy comes out to manage Bret, but Bret tells him to get lost before polishing off a pre-Brooklyn Brawler Steve Lombardi with a brutal-looking piledriver, to an overwhelmingly positive reaction.

 

A few weeks later, also on Superstars, Bret has another singles match, this time with Jerry Allen (Jerry Arotski, a regular WWF enhancement talent, in pretty good shape but with limited charisma who also worked Memphis, Montreal and World Class in Dallas as Jerry O and Jerry Oske, with victories over Randy Savage and Rick Rude to his credit. Arotski passed away in December 1995 after apparently slipping on a patch of ice and hitting his head against a Cadillac.) Jimmy comes out to take his place in Bret’s corner again, but this time Jim Neidhart comes out to shoo ‘The Mouth of the South’ away and Neidhart instead takes up the spot in Bret’s corner. And when you talk about the differences between certain eras, particularly older eras full of slow-building angles and not rushing into things, just consider that Bret’s initial turn took place on March 27th, yet this match didn’t even air until June 18th. Almost three months had gone by and the WWF were still just trying to hammer home that, yes, the Hart Foundation have turned babyface, and they no longer wish to have Jimmy Hart associated with them. The finish to the match wasn’t shown here (Bret won with another piledriver) because I guess the angle was the important thing.

 

The Hart Foundation vs. Los Conquistadors
Once again, the match is really just a backdrop to the ongoing issue between Jimmy and The Hart Foundation, as Jimmy comes out to observe things from the interview stage and promises Demolition will demolish the Foundation at SummerSlam. The Foundation polish off Los Conquistadors with the Hart Attack, then chase Jimmy out of the arena.

 

WWF Tag Team Championship
Demolition (c) vs. The Hart Foundation
So the official explanation for Jimmy being in Demolition’s corner (along with Demolition’s regular manager Mr. Fuji) for those wondering was that he was contractually still the manager on record for The Hart Foundation, which legally entitled him to be out at ringside. You just don’t get that kind of attention to detail any more, sad to say. Then again, you don’t really get managers any more either. The action is joined in progress here, with things breaking loose. Amidst the confusion, Fuji jumps on the ring apron to distract both Neidhart and the referee, allowing Jimmy to throw his megaphone in to Ax ,who wallops Bret from behind with it as he attempts a piledriver on Smash. That of course all leads to Smash scoring the match-winning pin on Bret, giving Jimmy a degree of revenge over the Hart Foundation, which is an odd thing to have happen given he was the heel. In fact, I don’t think The Hart Foundation ever really got any revenge back on Jimmy, unless you count their win over Jimmy’s new team of Rhythm & Blues at WrestleMania V.

 

WWF Intercontinental Championship
The Honky Tonk Man (c) vs. The Ultimate Warrior
This was originally slated on television to be the final blow-off for Honky Tonk Man’s feud with Brutus Beefcake, but Beefcake ended up having his face ripped open by the boot spurs of ‘Outlaw’ Ron Bass, in an unusually bloody angle for it’s time. That left Honky Tonk with no opponent to defend the title against at SummerSlam, so he arrogantly demanded “Get me somebody out here to wrestle, I don’t care who it is!” Those certainly proved to be famous last words, as the Ultimate Warriors burst onto the scene and absolutely steamrollered his way through Honky, right to the Intercontinental title. Probably the most famous squash match of all time, and perhaps even the best given the stage it occurred on (although for my money, that honour goes to the incredible pasting Lee Scott took from Sid Vicious on the August 29th, 1989 edition of NWA Main Event.) This is a **** match to me. Hey, nobody’s mistaking this for a Flair-Steamboat classic or a Misawa-Kobashi epic, but goddamn was this ever fun. Yeah “as a match” and all that bullshit, but nobody who saw it ever forgot it, and I’ve never met a single person who was a WWF fan during this period who didn’t love this match. Opinions are all subjective anyway, so for the purposes of satisfying your own ego, give this your own “standard squash match” rating. Then shut the fuck up and just BASK in the glory that is pro-wrestling, as the coolest cat on the planet (at least in that moment) finally figures out just how to shut the undeserving loudmouth up after 15 long months as champion. And man, Jimmy really wasn’t having the best time of things at this point, was he? Not only had he lost his top tag team, he’d also lost the Intercontinental title as well.

 

To a post-SummerSlam television interview next, as Honky comes out to sulk as Warrior gives his victory speech, and he just absolutely wallops Warrior over the head with a guitar to try and get some heat on their inevitably one-sided rematches. Also interesting to note that this interview with Warrior wearing the belt actually occurred before SummerSlam but didn’t air until afterwards, the WWF employing a little trick for the live audience whereby Warrior “won” the title from Honky Tonk under dubious circumstances in a dark match at the beginning of the taping. They then filmed squash matches and interviews with Warrior as champion, before an announcement was made that the belt had been returned to Honky Tonk, giving the WWF footage of Warrior with the title for it’s post-SummerSlam television shows whilst giving the live crowd a logical explanation as to why he was carrying the belt around, despite Honky still being the champion on TV through to the pay-per-view. I wonder how many people cottoned on to how less-than-coincidental it was that Warrior was then chosen as Beefcake’s replacement for the actual title change?

 

SLICK
Slick calls his WWF run thus far “nothing but sensational” then Nikolai Volkoff sings the Russian national anthem.

 

On The Brother Love Show, Slick promises to teach Hulk Hogan about hard times, then maces him in the face before The Big Bossman just absolutely beats the shit out of Hogan with his nightstick, kicking off their fairly long-running 1988-89 house feud that culminated in a very famous cage match on Saturday Night’s Main Event (available on the Even More Saturday Night’s Main Event Coliseum release) after they’d all but drained the well dry on the issue (which was standard WWF policy at the time as far as bringing house show feuds to television; many of the matches you saw on SNME would have been milked for every last penny at arena events and were usually pretty much dead issues once they hit the gogglebox, but to the mainstream audience that wasn’t buying live event tickets, they felt like special, big-time clashes.)

 

To “deepest, darkest Africa” next (which suspiciously more closely resembles a cheap sound stage dressed up to look like an alleyway in a New York ghetto), where Slick greets intrepid reporter ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund with a courteous “Yo, brother!” and Gene responds in kind – “What is it, cousin?” Slick admits they couldn’t bring Gene to Africa, but he’s going to bring Africa to Gene. And with that, an African tribe dances around a fire and the world is introduced to Akeem, the former One Man Gang, as a big fat white guy doing a stereotypical ‘jive soul bro’ act. Slick calls it “the greatest night in wrestling history”, and who am I to argue with that?

 

MR. FUJI
Master Fuji claims that after having taken Demolition to the tag team titles at WrestleMania IV, he dumped them because they had no discipline. So there’s your justification for Fuji bizarrely dumping a championship team. (In kayfabe terms of course, he couldn’t rightly admit that Demolition were over as babyfaces with the majority of the audience which would have left his character in limbo, much like what happened in 1996 when he was managing Yokozuna as he turned babyface to feud with Vader.)

 

At WrestleMania IV, Fuji’s posturing on the ring apron is enough to distract Tito Santana, allowing Ax to crack Rick Martel in the back of the head with Fuji’s steel cane, as the referee is distracted by the extra curricular activity. All of which leads to Smash pinning Martel to raise the tag team titles.

 

At the 2nd annual Survivor Series, Fuji pulls the ropes down, causing his own charge, Smash, to tumble out of the ring to the outside. When Ax questions him about it, Fuji whacks him in the back with his cane, so Ax bodyslams him on the floor. Oddly, Demolition’s rivals The Powers of Pain go help out Fuji, dust him down, and then polish off Los Conquistadors with The Barbarian delivering a diving headbutt after Fuji trips one of them from the outside. 

 

FRENCHY MARTIN
Frenchie only has one client, Dino Bravo, so they spend their interview time calling out Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and Andre the Giant, claiming nobody can come close to matching Bravo’s power.

 

World Bench Press Record Attempt
This is one of my most hated segments from all of wrestling in the 80s because it’s just so damn long. I mean, it’s got a point to it, albeit if only to establish that a.) Dino Bravo is exceedingly strong, and b.) Dino Bravo is a cheat. But it eats up literally 20-minutes of air time, as Bravo begins lifting weights at 415 lbs, then works his way up, increment by tedious increment, to 715, at which point he requires the help of his spotter Jesse Ventura to get the weight up. Ventura would later claim to have added no additional pressure to the lift and that Bravo succeeded, although it was clear Bravo needed his assistance. Cut down here to just the final lift, it’s a fairly average little angle as opposed to a massively mind-numbing chore. I actually sat through the whole thing again for my review of WWF Strong Men which you can read elsewhere in this book.

 

MISS ELIZABETH
With the Mega Powers having exploded at the time of this tape’s release (i.e. Elizabeth having left TV screens in the wake of Randy Savage’s heel turn and being left with nothing to do), Elizabeth is apparently “too distraught to give an interview” so instead, here’s a look at The Mega Powers in happier times.

 

WWF Championship Tournament Final
Randy Savage vs. Ted DiBiase
So this is the finals of the gigantic 14-man single elimination tournament to crown an undisputed WWF champion after a convoluted series of events led to the title being declared vacant by WWF president Jack Tunney (for a refresher on the full story, once again, check out my review of Hulkamania 3). Here, with the focus on Elizabeth, the action is joined in progress as DiBiase’s second, Andre the Giant, trips Savage from the outside, sending Miss Elizabeth scurrying back to the locker room to bring out Hulk Hogan as back-up for Savage. It was a sequence which had become somewhat commonplace, after she originally performed the same act on an edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event in October 1987, as Savage was being destroyed in a 3-on-1 attack courtesy of the Honky Tonk Man and the Hart Foundation. With Andre choking Savage from the outside, Hogan runs around the ring and belts him right in the kisser, but Savage misses a big elbow on DiBiase, allowing ‘The Million Dollar Man’ to slap on his Million Dollar Dream sleeper hold. That presents Andre with another opportunity to take a shot at Savage from the outside, which the referee catches, and as he admonishes Andre for stepping out of line, Hogan sees a chance to extract revenge (having being nailed from behind with a chair by DiBiase during his tournament quarter final match with Andre) and into the ring he slinks, steel chair in hand, and smashes DiBiase across the back with it. This gives a groggy Savage one more chance to climb to the top rope and launch another big elbow, this time connecting, scoring him the match-winning, tournament-winning, and WWF title-winning pin.

 

The Mega Powers vs. The Mega Bucks
This is the colossal main event of the first ever SummerSlam pay-per-view, the event designed to bridge the gap in the WWF’s supershow calendar between WrestleMania and Survivor Series. Again, with the action focusing squarely on Elizabeth, we’re joined in progress with Hogan and Savage dumped on the outside, all hope seemingly lost as DiBiase & Andre stand tall in the ring. At which point, Liz leaps into action, jumping up on the ring apron and whipping off her skirt to reveal… well, a shorter skirt and some conservative red panties. Although for a woman consistently presented as a glamorous princess, this was all pretty risqué for the WWF in 1988, even if it retrospectively seems incredibly tame, particularly by the ‘Attitude era’ standards of lingerie pillow fights and Playboy centrefolds. The fact this was somehow enough to halt DiBiase, Andre, bodyguard Virgil, manager Bobby Heenan and special referee Jesse Ventura all dead in their tracks and create enough of a distraction to allow Hogan and Savage to regroup, shake hands and clean house, is all a bit of a stretch to say the least, but it’s all in good fun I suppose. From there, a Savage big elbow and a Hogan legdrop are enough to polish off DiBiase, giving the Mega Powers the win. Obviously I won’t rate the match here with so little of it having been shown, but I’d put the entire thing at about ***, a baseline good match, and one that (partially for nostalgia reasons) I like to drag out of the mothballs once the annual hype for SummerSlam reaches critical mass.

 

The Mega Powers, Hillbilly Jim, Koko B. Ware & Hercules vs. Haku, The Twin Towers, Ted DiBiase & The Red Rooster
Once more joined in progress with just Haku left on the heel side as he destroys Savage, whilst Hogan remains handcuffed to the bottom rope, which must sound utterly confusing if you’ve never seen the full thing before. Anyway, with Hogan knocking out The Twin Towers’ manager Slick, Elizabeth is able to pickpocket him, retrieve the key to the cuffs and free Hogan, allowing him to take the tag from Savage and finish off Haku in his usual fashion.

 

And we don’t finish things with the ‘Mega Power Meltdown’ as you might expect, despite this tape having been released some time after the fact. How odd.

 

Summary: Not a bad tape, but not a great one either, with a lot of rehashed footage if you’re a serious collector. Still, it does make for a breezy slice of nostalgia, and you could almost consider this tape an entryway into the WWF managers of the day, as it covers pretty much all the major incidents a newer fan could do to be made aware of. Definitely recommended if you’re just getting into the WWF and require a quick n’ easy guide to who’s who in the management ranks, after having set your DeLorean to May, 1989.
Verdict: 53

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