Arnold Furious: This is the last of the ‘Best of’ comps from the WWF. Like the previous instalment this comes from early 1989. Although it is capped off by Hogan and Rude from a year earlier. Most matches come from February to May ’89. Host is Sean Mooney in front of “happy 20th anniversary” banner. He promises big name guests… and Tony Schiavone. Unfortunately for him,only Brother Love turns up. Hijinks ensure.
The Brooklyn Brawler vs. The Red Rooster
One of the best things about the ‘Best of’ series was their attempt to get a variety of performers showcased on them, to the point where we have this match. Chronologically it’s the latest to take place. This is all due to Bobby Heenan who managed Terry Taylor, then dumped him and took on Brooklyn Brawler just so he could manage a jobber to beat his former charge. Although he can’t be *that* bothered because he’s not even here. Lombardi’s whole gimmick is based on him being a fighter not a wrestler. So on the floor he takes over because it’s more like a street fight. It’s not a bad gimmick per se, just a bad name. Brawler punches away at Rooster’s stupid red Mohawk and runs through his whole repertoire. Scoop slam, chinlock and he’s out of moves. Rooster is able to wrestle out of most of it, although Brawler with his one dimensional approach is still able to boss most of the match. Rooster gets a load of roll ups for near falls, countered by a punch to the throat and a poke in the eye. Rooster has to bring most of the psychology, but Brawler is keeping up with him. Taylor finally finishes matters with a sunset flip. I like that both men had such different styles, a bit like early MMA. The execution was ok too. It also teaches us a lesson way before UFC; a good wrestler will always beat a good brawler.
Final Rating: **
Bad News Brown vs. Brutus Beefcake
Bad News is bald so he should have nothing to fear from Beefcake’s barber kit, but Brutus has his sights set on Brown’s beard. Brown thrives on brawls and Beefcake can’t do that. The result is slightly like the last match; brawler vs. wrestler. Brutus is dumber than Red Rooster though and tries to punch, so he loses. Brown’s only real competition comes from arguing with the ref about all the punching. Beefcake keeps trying to fight, which gets him nowhere, and out of desperation he hits a crossbody for a near fall. There ya go! Brown then loses track of his game too by going up top, Beefcake throws him off and gets the sleeper. Brown uses his smarts again to back Beefcake into the corner to get him off. When Brown sticks to his strengths he’s winning this match, although the same could be said of Beefcake… if he had any strengths. Brown bails for the scissors only for Beefcake to roll him up for the minor upset. When the match made sense I liked it but they kept straying from the logical path. Both men ended up looking stupid.
Final Rating: *½
King Haku vs. Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Neither guy is suited to the ‘King’ gimmick so immediately I’m not interested in what happens. I guess Vince’s thinking was that it’d be funny if Duggan became King and wore all that royal finery with his 2×4. Maybe put a little crown on it. The match is pretty poor, although Haku does try to make things happen. Duggan finishes with the Three Point Stance to become the new King of the WWF. I suppose the match has a degree of historical importance. Duggan would hold onto the title for half a year before the Macho King angle. Once that angle was played out the title was forgotten about. But in 1989 it meant something.
Final Rating: ½*
King Duggan Coronation
Exactly what it says on the tin. Bobby Heenan looks on from backstage with an equally unimpressed looking Andre the Giant.
16-Man Battle Royal
You’d think people would be sick of Battle Royals by 1989 but for whatever reason they remained popular. If you ever go to an Indy show and they main event it with a Battle Royal, you know they’re creatively bankrupt. This is a midcard battle royal with a few reasonably famous guys in there. Akeem is the biggest, in terms of size, so Demolition team up to throw him out. Some of the bigger names are Bret Hart, Mr. Perfect, Tito Santana, Big Bossman, Honky Tonk Man and Greg Valentine. We go from that down to jobbers including Brooklyn Brawler, Jim Powers, Blue Blazer and Richard Charland. You know the drill by now, it’s just a bunch of guys hugging the ropes for the majority of the runtime. Bossman kicks off a series of eliminations by shoving Demolition Ax out and then Jim Powers. Honky gets thrown out by Smash. The rope hugging continues regardless. Of all the matches to NOT clip. Literally you could clip everything up to the finish and not miss anything of interest. Unless you’re a big Richard Charland fan. The jobbers all get cleared out and that gives everyone space to work. Smash and Bossman get into it and eliminate each other. Final four: Bret Hart, Mr Perfect, Tito Santana and Rick Martel. They pick teams with heels vs. faces and you’ve got four good wrestlers in there and two future feuds; Bret-Perfect and Martel-Santana. Perfect dumps Tito, who’s too focused on Martel, and Bret gets double teamed. Tito hangs around and low bridges Martel out. Perfect is so shocked that Bret is able to throw him out for the win. Awful match until the last two minutes and the last two eliminations. I don’t really need to see another battle royal as long as I live. This was, incidentally, the main event of the evening.
Final Rating: *¼
The Hart Foundation vs. The Rougeau Brothers
Brother Love gasses on for ages before we get underway, as he’s the special referee, thus pissing off the Harts and setting up the theme for the match. Some people just go on and on and on until nobody cares what they’re saying or why they’re saying it. That’s true to the point where the commentators just talk over what he’s saying because he’s not actually saying anything. Just talking. Important difference. And when Tony Schiavone and Alfred Hayes talking over a promo is a GOOD thing, then you need to zip it. Brother Love is incredibly biased and painfully slow, which just isn’t needed in this match. Let’s face it, you let them go and it’ll be good. You add a shitty referee and it won’t. An added referee who screws up the pace of the match is what you need when the wrestlers are no good. Add some drama where there is none. All of Bret’s lightning fast work is completely wasted in the process. To make matters even more frustrating, the whole match is flash pins from the Harts just to reinforce the poor officiating. I guess the question is; who watched this, thought it was good and decided to put it on tape? To make matters even worse they work the heat on Anvil. It’s like they had a wager about how bad a match they could possibly have featuring two good teams. Bret gets a hot tag and has the match won, only for Brother Love to mug into camera instead of counting the pin. Bret gets caught in a roll up and Brother Love fast counts him down, even though Bret kicks out. I don’t understand any of this. I don’t know why they’d deliberately make their own product worse. I guess the aim was to get people over but everyone is already over in their current roles. They could have had the Hart Attack on Brother Love pre-match and got the same reaction instead of sitting through a bad 15-minute match to get there. Plus on paper this was the only “can’t fail” match on the tape, and it’s rubbish.
Final Rating: *
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Rick Rude
Ok, so the ‘Best of the WWF’ ends forever with this match from Boston Garden in January 1988. Rude came into the WWF the previous year and bounced around like crazy for everyone. Hogan must have fancied his chances of having a fun match, so here he is in the main event a few months after facing Hogan in the Survivor Series ’87 main. Rude and Bigelow pretty much saved that match. That’s not how they approach this match though. First Rude stalls, then goes for an arm wrestling match, which he loses. Rude hasn’t figured out how to make his offence interesting yet, so just opts for sitting in an armbar. He just doesn’t have the offensive moves to be in this match. Heenan positions the ref for a chair shot. I love that Hogan feeds Rude the back, only for Rude to walk around and smack him in the head instead. But Rude has no sense of urgency, and goes right into a chinlock from it where they sit for the remainder of his heat segment. Hogan comes back, only for Rude to go low and hook his over-the-shoulder backbreaker. He seems to think Hogan has quit so drops him. Hogan pops back up, Hulks Up, and finishes with the legdrop. Rick Rude didn’t have the experience required to make this match work. Hogan should have realised this and just beaten Rude up for the whole match. After all, Rude’s selling was top draw and that would have been more fun to watch
Final Rating: *½
Summary: Horrible selections here. Matches that looked good on paper but weren’t in reality, combined with matches no-one wanted to see. A sad demise for the Best of the WWF series. The best match was Red Rooster vs. Brooklyn Brawler, which says it all. I’m actually quite relieved to reach the end of them because they’re so unpredictable. I can’t tell if I’m in for a miserable or joyful 90 minutes based on the tape listing.