Arnold Furious: The WWF kept churning out these ‘best of’ tapes until 1989, though it soon became apparent they were nothing of the sort, rather just a bunch of matches they had from a three month period with the odd “classic” thrown in. Fans were starting to get wise to the scam so the WWF started releasing their crap with different titles. Like “Supertape” or “World Tour” or “Mega Matches” in the hope the fans wouldn’t notice the content was the same. Only the name had changed. So this is the penultimate ‘best of’ release. Host is Sean Mooney who’s trying to step it up by giving us a tour of Titan Towers in Stamford. Alfred Hayes is the first guy to refuse to speak to him and “security” doesn’t recognise him; a “gag” that Gene Okerlund ran throughout Vol. 17. It wasn’t funny then and it isn’t funny now.
Mr. Perfect vs. Brutus Beefcake
This is from early 1989, as are almost all these matches, so it’s way before the Perfect-Beefcake feud hit a high gear. Perfect was running a win streak gimmick at the time and in fact, Beefcake was the guy who finished that at WrestleMania VI. Perfect could make just about anyone look good and Beefcake was just starting to hit his peak as a wrestler. Beefcake at his peak still isn’t great, but at least he’s passable. Beefcake never seemed to learn how to react to being hit. I’m not talking about bumps so much as his fake-looking judder every time he’s struck. Now, everyone has a reaction to being hit, but Beefcake’s is the same regardless of how it’s done. It’s so stupid when you know it’s there. Once you’ve seen it, it can’t be unseen. He’s not the only guy with that flaw, by any means, but compare him to Perfect and it’s a different world. Perfect oversells, to comedic levels at times, but he knows when to do it and how to do it. Beefcake can’t even sell a stomp or a punch differently. He just arches his back and grunts. You’re not making a porno, Brutus! Given Perfect’s ability to bump, the match is way better when Beefcake is on offence. Ron Bass runs down to steal Beefcake’s barber gear, perhaps auditioning for the Repo Man gimmick, only for Beefcake to see him. They fight on the floor and Beefcake gets counted out. That’s a DQ surely ref!? Mr. Perfect is all kinds of awesome and this was a carry job.
Final Rating: **¾
Back to Sean Mooney, who talks to John Arnold in Video Control. Aha, the mysterious master of Video Control. Because he thinks Sean’s a goof, he introduces the next match himself. Hey, John, if I pay you extra can you put good matches on Vol. 20?
WWF Tag Team Championship
Demolition (c) vs. The Powers of Pain
Egad, who decided to put Tony Schiavone and Alfred Hayes on commentary at the same time? You evil bastards. This is after Mr. Fuji turned on Demolition, thus turning the tag champs face. Given the two teams, there is a lot of clubberin’. Dusty Rhodes would be thrilled. Alfred Hayes just can’t provide that kind of colour for Tony. What would his equivalent be? Fisticuffs? It’s funny, because I’m English and I can’t predict what Alfred Hayes is going to say because he’s a stereotype. The clubberin’ continues until Barbarian chops Ax in the throat and he falls outside. It feels like a changing point and yet as soon as he’s back in, it’s back to the clubberin’. Smash gets a hot tag and SLAMS both Powers of Pain. I’m so shocked because it’s a wrestling move! Powers get really pissy about that and double clubber Smash. Fuji jumps on the apron but gets clubbered off. Ax grabs his cane and waffles everyone with it, until Fuji throws cocaine in his eyes for the DQ. The cane wasn’t a DQ? Energetic, but as one dimensional as you can possibly get. New York Style personified in these four gentlemen. Clubbertastic.
Final Rating: *½
Back with Sean Mooney who tries to interview Jesse Ventura, but is told to get lost. What’s the point in having people host these things if they’re just jokes. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; Vince McMahon and I don’t share a sense of humour.
Jesse Ventura vs. Tony Garea
Hayes screws with the commentary again here. For starters he thinks it’d be funny if Jesse was called Freddie Ventura, because then his nickname could be Flamboyant Freddie. Yes, Alfred, hilarious. Then he laughs for 2 minutes about Gorilla Monsoon making fun of Ventura’s lack of hair. Embarrassing stuff. This is from Ventura’s ’85 comeback tour, by which point Garea was a jobber, so this is a foregone conclusion. Not to mention a bad match, as Ventura was in horrible shape after an extended layoff with injuries. Jesse demonstrates how clever he is by showing the ref a punch with his fist open, before hiding a punch with a closed fist. Garea works the arm for a bit so Ventura throws him into the ropes and Tony does the Cactus bit where he gets hung in them. You didn’t see that very often, so it’s a devastating spot and Garea is boned after that. Ventura had terrible looking tights for such a big star. They looked like your Nan’s curtains. Loose, billowy and covered in flowers. They start running some nice counters, and Ventura runs Garea neck first into the buckles to escape a waistlock. The following elbow drop gets the pin. Pretty dull match, but the counters near the finish, with Garea desperate to use his remaining energy to score a pin, was hot shit.
Final Rating: *¾
Back to Mooney and he’s in Edit One, where they put the TV together, and low and behold its Kevin Dunn. Producer extraordinaire and the WWF’s main TV guy forever. Dunn treats him like something he stepped in. At least this made sense because he knew who Mooney was, he just didn’t care because Mooney is a Z-lister.
Macho Man Randy Savage (c) vs. Bad News Brown
In a Harlem Streetfight no less! Savage got a few minor feuds before his heel turn with the belt and subsequent run with Hulk Hogan. This was one of the main ones. The lack of rules seems to suit Brown and he uses a chair, but Savage picks up the concept quickly and fires back with his weightlifting belt. Savage goes for a super chair shot, or a chair shot off the top if you’d rather, but Brown sees him coming and punches the champ’s gut. They don’t quite convey the hatred you’d expect in such a violent match, but Brown seems intent on using the environment to win the title. Remember this is 1989, and Bad News brings a TABLE into the ring. Sabu used to work in Canada, this match is in Ontario, so I wonder if he was watching? Savage manages to reverse the table spot and Bad News goes through it with the ref, the latter taking the brunt of it. GHETTO BLASTER! Bad News Brown has the WWF title won, but the ref is laid out. Rumour has it that Vince McMahon promised Brown a title run and later reneged on the offer, which is why he quit. Bad News has trouble reviving the ref, kicking him doesn’t help, and Savage takes him down with a backslide thanks to a second ref running down. It had a table spot! In 1989! The fighting continues after the bell with Bad News taking out the replacement ref and then a second replacement, before jobbers come out to break it all up. They had great ideas and elevated the concept of a street fight by using weapons. It’s been commonplace since Sabu and ECW started using tables in every match, but for the era its amazing.
Final Rating: ***
Sean Mooney goes to talk to Chuck in “Master Control”. He walks off. Mooney tries to wing it himself. “This is a tape machine, erm, er”.
Andre the Giant & Rick Rude vs. Jake Roberts & Hacksaw Jim Duggan
This must be during the Snake-Rude feud, as the crowd goes insane when Jake goes after his opponent. Jake switched from Rude to Andre so this could be the transitioning of feuds. The faces get a funny spot where Andre is tied in the ropes and they use Rude as a battering ram to attack him. The heels work Jake over for a lengthy heat segment, although Jake never feels in trouble because it’s just chinlocks and shit like that. Rude and Jake could never capture that feeling of danger in their singles matches either. Duggan gets a hot tag, but tries to lift Andre, because he’s an idiot, and immediately gets picked off for his own heat segment. They should have called Hacksaw’s tape “Bearded Stupidity: The Jim Duggan Story”. So we get another hot tag with the crowd erupting for Jake. And I mean, everyone is on their feet as he comes in. Everyone. Andre bops him in the back, but Duggan bashes Rude with the 2×4 and Jake gets the pin. Boring heat on Jake and horrible decisions by Duggan aside, it was ok.
Final Rating: *½
Million Dollar Man
We go to video clips of Ted DiBiase shopping in Greenwich, Connecticut. He goes to a jewellers to order the Million Dollar championship belt. He wants everything made from the finest and most expensive materials available. When he comes to pick up the belt he’s wearing a cape, and has a cackling laugh, that makes him look like a James Bond villain, who’s also a vampire. We skip ahead to the Brother Love show for the big unveiling. On said show DiBiase claims he’s too good for the WWF title and needed a better one, so he had it made from GOLD AND DIAMONDS. Nothing else, mind you. It’s beyond gaudy. Hell, John Cena would look at that thing and say “isn’t that a bit much?”
Ted DiBiase vs. Bret Hart
Alfred Hayes continues the chuckles by claiming he once paid $75 for a Gucci belt and thought that was extravagant. This match would later appear on Bret’s DVD set, although with the commentary removed. Probably because its Tony Schiavone and Alfred Hayes and it sucks. Bret starts FAST, and pops off more moves in the first 60 seconds than most entire matches from the era. DiBiase gets NOTHING and keeps having to bail after taking near falls. 1989 was one of those years where the writing was on the wall. Bret Hart was going to be a big star, it was only a matter of “when” rather than “if”. DiBiase brings selling and bumping to match Bret’s bursts of energy. Wrestling benefits from guys like DiBiase because he’d sell for anyone, but if your shit was good he’d put extra effort into his side of the match. He was never scared to job or show ass because he knew that the more over people you had, the more money the business would make. After all, if you need to win to be over then you’re not over. After Bret’s opening shine is done, they give Ted a big central chunk. Normally that’s where the match suffers but Bret’s bumping is awesome. Plus, Ted’s offence is great, without being showy, so he isn’t going to turn himself face, but he isn’t going to bore me either. Bret is intent on going for flash pins while Ted beats him up, just to mix the action up and avoid straight-up heat. These are two men who really understand how to work a match. Structure is absolutely vital and this is a marginal classic. Eventually Ted gets blown up and resorts to a chinlock to recover. Bret wins a resultant slugfest, showing he can do everything, and follows with the Five Moves of Doom. Or rather two moves, before missing in the corner and messing his knee up. DiBiase, not for the first time on the Best Of tapes, brings the Funk Spinning Toehold, but gets kicked off to the floor. PESCADO! Bret wipes out DiBiase and both men get counted out. With a finish, the match is an actual classic. As it stands it’s just an excellent match between two great wrestlers. Bret was really starting to come into his own in 1989 but would improve to become a real legend.
Final Rating: ***¾
Summary: A couple of first-rate matches, Bret vs. DiBiase is exceptional, and nothing really offensive makes this an easy recommendation. If they’d carried on doing ‘Best Of’ comps after #20, their first port of call should have been sticking a Bret Hart match against someone good on last, every time out. It made this tape improve from decent to good.