#WF103 – Crunch Classic

Lee Maughan: Hosted by ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper who talks about when he “knocked out Mr. T” and recounts his run-ins with Jimmy Snuka, Cyndi Lauper and Dick Clark, all of which leads to:

 

WWF Intercontinental Championship
The Mountie (c) vs. Roddy Piper
From Royal Rumble 92, this was originally advertised as Bret Hart defending the title against The Mountie, but Mountie unexpectedly won the title two nights earlier in Springfield, MA. One long-held theory amongst “smark” fans was that Bret was negotiating with WCW, although Bret himself has denied this, claiming to have no idea where those rumours came from and saying that the title change completely blind-sided him. So, with Bret “sick with a 104 degree fever” and unable to compete, Piper was thrown in as a last-minute opponent and the result is one of those matches that proves “favourite” doesn’t always equal “best”. Because let’s be honest here, this match isn’t so good, but I just absolutely love it. As an eight-year-old mark, I was an enormous Piper fan, so while I was crushed to hear Bret had lost the title (and under such circumstances too!), I was absolutely ECSTATIC that Piper was going after the belt. The fact the Bret-to-Mountie change had happened just two nights earlier made it feel like you were watching something completely unexpected, like Piper had stumbled into this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and here was his chance to completely grab it by the balls. And grab it by the balls he did, with gleeful enthusiasm, drawing parallels between The Mountie and The Village People during his pre-match promo, then just absolutely blitzing him right from the opening bell. Mountie’s token heat segment is what it is and doesn’t last long, before Piper slaps on the sleeper, and the roar from the crowd as Mountie’s arm drops on a third and final check from the referee is enormous. The Mountie’s manager Jimmy Hart jumps around frantically on the outside, having seen the newly won title slip through Mountie’s fingers, with him completely helpless to do anything to prevent it. Piper even gets to zap Mountie with his own shock stick after the match, then ring announcer Howard Finkel gets to make a slow and dramatic but euphoric announcement, declaring Piper the “NEEEEWWWW” Intercontinental champion in his own inimitable style. The look of childlike joy on Piper’s face when he realises he’s the champion, probably eclipsed even the genuine childlike joy I had as I sat on my grandparent’s living room floor, positively BEAMING as I wore my Roddy Piper t-shirt (the first wrestling t-shirt I ever owned) with pride. Not a great match, but certainly a great moment.
Final Rating: **

 

Virgil & The Big Bossman vs. IRS & Ted DiBiase
In discussions about the worst commentators of all time, one of the most frequent that comes up is that of Lord Alfred Hayes, a British grappler who found fame both at home and abroad as ‘Judo’ Al Hayes, but gained his most lasting fame as an aristocratic nobleman announcer for the WWF in the mid-80s to early 90s, primarily on Tuesday Night Titans, and later, Prime Time Wrestling. He was also a staple of Coliseum Video, and he’s dropping insight all over this tape. In this match for example, he proclaims Virgil to be “one of the most improved wrestlers of the 90s.” It was 1991. Later, he adds this stunning piece of insight – “Ah yes, Sensational Sherri, lovely but strange.” How anyone could hate this man is beyond me. I’m not saying he wasn’t awful, but it was such a charming kind of awful that you don’t get nowadays. Virgil and The Big Bossman might seem like an odd pairing, but Bossman was feuding with IRS at the time (mainly on the house show circuit, with no real blowoff on TV, although they did meet on opposite sides at the 1991 Survivor Series) whilst Virgil was previously Ted DiBiase’s bodyguard but had snapped and turned on DiBiase at the Royal Rumble earlier in the year, before winning DiBiase’s self-proclaimed Million Dollar Title from him in a really fun match at SummerSlam. As for the DiBiase and IRS pairing, I can only presume that unless their teaming here was a coincidental occurrence for a busy television taping, then this was probably a dry-run for their later teaming as Money Inc. And what an odd team Money Inc. were if you really think about it, for many, many reasons. Firstly, why was the taxman teaming up with the millionaire? Was IRS doing undercover work to try and needle DiBiase? Or were they both running a scam? In less kayfabed terms, they came along at a pretty bad time for tag team wrestling in the WWF. With The Rockers and The Hart Foundation both splitting up for good in 1991, the WWF found itself full of behemoth brawlers like The Natural Disasters, The Nasty Boys and The Legion of Doom, leaving Money Inc. little to work with, at least until The Steiner Brothers jumped over from WCW at the tail end of 1992. On top of all that, you’ve got the technically proficient Mike Rotundo doing a gimmick suited to practically nobody in the audience. Yes, he’s a taxman so he’s a bad guy. But with the WWF heavily marketing towards kids whose greatest financial concerns are whether they’ve got enough money to buy bubblegum and football stickers, how is that supposed to resonate? He probably would have been better off as an evil ice cream man. He could have come to the ring in a little truck that chimed his entrance theme, and he could have given out those trick ice cream cones that fire a tennis ball on a string into the face of anyone stupid enough to try eating one (and trust me, WWF crowds in 1991 would have been PACKED with suckers just like that). After hitting his “Big Freeze” finisher and winning his matches, he would dump ice cream all over his beaten opponents, as Vince McMahon on commentary would yelp “That’s not ice cream… that’s SORBET!” And then Mr. Whippy would eventually babyface and start giving out official WWF Ice Cream Bars for some neat on-screen cross-promotion. But no, he was a taxman, who I can only assume was designed to get heat from the grown-ups in the audience, which just brings further problems because I figure the majority of the adults at the shows are only there to appease their bratty kids. You know, the kind of grumpy dads who think it’s all bullshit anyway, and now here’s a guy wrestling in a shirt, tie and suspenders as if this whole farce wasn’t fake enough. And then there’s the nerdy basement-dwellers who presumably don’t pay tax anyway and just let their mums take care of all that financial paperwork stuff. Anyway, despite coming from one of those long TV tapings in front of burnt out crowds waiting for a routine 5-minute Hulk Hogan main event, this match is surprisingly fast-paced and energetic, and perhaps even more surprisingly, Virgil gets the pin after DiBiase’s manager Sensational Sherri accidentally clobbers IRS with one of her shoes (no wonder Money Inc. went with Jimmy Hart as their manager after they took the tag team titles from LOD and went full-time in February). DiBiase and IRS get into a shoving contest after the match, but DiBiase gives IRS a big payoff and they hug it out.
Final Rating: **½

 

24 Hours with Jimmy Hart
Jimmy shows up at the Hoosier Dome hotel only to find his room won’t be ready for at least three hours, so he instead accepts a room in the basement where The Mountie asks him to check his stick. Unfortunately, Ted DiBiase’s bags have gone missing, and IRS has called to tell him his plane is late. Later, he lets DiBiase know his limo is ready, presents IRS with a new tag team title belt then tells them both they’ll be booked on The Arsenio Hall Show. A few hours later, Jimmy falls asleep reading WWF Magazine‘s preview for The Natural Disasters-Money Inc. WrestleMania VIII match (he was probably using it as a cure for insomnia) but he’s awoken by another telephone call. Wearily, he leans over and tries to answer a banana. To the matches, where he preps The Nasty Boys who are late for their match (“The bell’s already rung!”) before he finally returns to the hotel one more time, ready for bed, only to get locked out of his room. Not much to it, but it was actually kind of interesting to see a manager actually acting like a manager rather than as a cartoon villain at ringside.

 

The New Foundation vs. The Nasty Boys
The New Foundation were Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart & ‘The Rocket’ Owen Hart who were a replacement for Neidhart’s previous Hart Foundation team after his partner (and Owen’s brother) Bret Hart had split from the duo to pursue a singles career, capturing the Intercontinental title from Mr. Perfect at SummerSlam ’91 before going on to multiple WWF and WCW World heavyweight titles, amongst other achievements. The Nasty Boys were Bebop and Rocksteady… er, I mean, Brian Knobbs & Jerry Sags. Actually, you probably already know all the stuff in that previous paragraph, but honestly, I needed something to pad the review of this match out with because there’s not a lot to say about it. Owen kicks things off with a nice topé suicida but chases Sags around the ring allowing Knobbs to blindside him and take over, at which point the match grinds to an extremely low level of interest for a few minutes. The Nasty Boys certainly had a lot of character and did boast a handful of good matches on their resumé (vs. The Steiner Brothers, WCW Halloween Havoc ’90; vs. The Hart Foundation, WrestleMania VII; vs. the Legion of Doom, SummerSlam ’91; and later, vs. Cactus Jack & Maxx Payne, WCW Spring Stampede ’94; and vs. Cactus Jack & Kevin Sullivan, WCW Slamboree ’94) but those were mostly all out brawls with a big feud or angle behind them. The rest of the time, they were just two sloppy street punks, and in matches like this with not a whole lot on the line but bragging rights, their offence just isn’t all that interesting to sit through. Sadly, most of this match is just that; Nasty offence. Spirits are raised when Owen brings Neidhart in with a slingshot shoulderblock (which was always impressive to see a guy as stocky as Neidhart bust out), but Sags pulls the referee away on a pinfall attempt by Owen, and that’s enough for the disqualification, rendering the previous seven minutes a total waste of time. The Nasty Boys celebrate like they’ve won but are SHOCKED to discover the decision has gone to the Foundation, presumably because they’re both horrendous idiots. Boring match, bookended by a couple of nice highspots.
Final Rating:

 

Hair vs. Hair Match
Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis
So this is from WrestleMania III after a big angle involving Piper’s Pit being replaced by The Flower Shop, and an injured Piper returning and trashing Adrian’s talk show set with a baseball bat in a classic, crazed, maniacal promo (sadly not included here), and it’s Piper’s big retirement match before heading out to forge a career in Hollywood with lead roles in the B-movie classic They Live! and the post-apocalyptic cult favourite Hell Comes to Frogtown. Signs of the times #1: “WE WILL MISS HOT ROD.” Aww, how lovely. Sings of the times #2: “AIDS ADONIS.” Aww, how… wait, what? Interestingly, Gorilla Monsoon and Alfred Hayes have re-dubbed the commentary for this match on account of original colour commentator Jesse Ventura’s lawsuit against Titan Sports, Inc. over royalty payments for the continued use of his voice on VHS releases, but the match otherwise remains uncut from the original broadcast. It’s no technical classic to say the least but it’s tons of fun, even if it is a little sad to see a terrific worker like Adrian Adonis bow out from the major stage in this fashion, a bloated shell of his former self. Not to say Adrian was bad here, but compared to the stocky, athletic marvel he was just a few short years earlier and reduced to playing a flamboyant transvestite instead of a hardcase New York biker, it just looks like a fall from grace. It’s a shame he had to drop everything that made him such a great hand in the first place and completely debase himself for this gimmick and yet this is how he winds up being best remembered, as a lump (a hard working lump admittedly, but a lump nevertheless) who needs his manager Jimmy Hart to work 50% of the match for him. Indeed, I hope Jimmy got just as big a payoff as Adonis for this match because he was like a wild man out there, making a total nuisance of himself, running all over the ring and taking big bumps on the apron, over the top to the floor, off the top onto Adonis etc. Not to mention he still had to come back later in the night and have Alice Cooper wrap Jake Roberts’ pet snake Damien around him. Honestly, if a young Raymond Heenan had never caught Wrestling from Marigold and become Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan, Jimmy Hart probably would have gone done as the greatest manager in wrestling history. And his best work didn’t even come on the WWF’s world stage! Track down his run as Jerry Lawler’s nemesis in Memphis Wrestling if you’re interested in seeing him at his absolute peak, his work there is second to none. So Adrian catches Piper in a sleeper but releases it early, thinking he’s won. As Adrian mugs for the crowd, Brutus Beefcake (fresh from having being dumped by The Dream Team earlier in the show) sprints down to help revive Piper, leading to a really hokey-looking spot in which Adonis smashes himself in the face with a gigantic pair of hedge clippers after he takes a swing at Piper and they bounce back off the ropes. His hesitation killed it. Piper slaps on a sleeper of his own and that’s enough to put Adonis out, allowing Beefcake the chance to cement his new “Barber” gimmick and cut Adrian’s hair (which was actually in retaliation for a TV match a few weeks earlier with Adonis, Beefcake & Greg Valentine against ‘Leaping’ Lanny Poffo & The Can-Am Connection, in which Adrian had accidentally cut Beefcake’s hair, thinking Beefcake was actually Rick Martel). Silly, fun match in all, with a great payoff to a great angle, and you can’t ask for much more than that.
Final Rating: ***

 

The Undertaker vs. The British Bulldog
This, amazingly enough, is a fan favourites match, and the reason why that’s so amazing is because -as James Dixon will attest- the “fan-requested” matches on Coliseum Videos were almost exclusively piss-takes that no fan in their right mind would ever want to see. Stuff like Koko B. Ware vs. The Brooklyn Brawler, hardly the things dreams were made of, so this is quite the pleasant surprise. Although keep in mind that it’s from 1991, when The Undertaker was still a plodding, undead zombie, and Davey Boy Smith had packed on so much steroid-related muscle that he wasn’t the great worker he’d been a few years earlier (or became again in the mid-90s). At this point, he pretty much just works to the level of his opponent, and the level of his opponent here is “dull”. And remember what I said during the Virgil/Bossman-IRS/DiBiase match about dead crowds at long, drawn-out TV tapings? Here’s your perfect example of that, as the crowd would sit through endless squash matches then be far too bored to really get excited about anything with any sort of marquee value, like this. And it’s a quite typical of the era Undertaker match with Undertaker smothering Davey Boy’s face for a few minutes to really ramp up the tedium, but things do pick up with a flying clothesline (albeit botched into more of a flying shoulderblock), a delayed suplex, and Davey Boy nailing his running powerslam finisher. Undertaker obviously sits up from that and with Paul Bearer up on the apron, Undertaker nails Bulldog from behind with the urn to knock him out for the pinfall victory, surprisingly enough. Undertaker goes to put Davey Boy in a body bag after the match, but Davey no-sells the supposed knock-out, gets right back up, and 360 clotheslines Undertaker right out of the ring. I was actually shocked Undertaker got a pinfall win there, given the WWF’s penchant for refusing to book clear cut winners and losers in matches where the winner isn’t a foregone conclusion, even if he did have to use the urn to do it. I suppose at the time he was being kept strong for his Survivor Series match with Hulk Hogan, which leads to me to wonder why this match even made tape, given it came out after Undertaker had already turned babyface.
Final Rating:

 

The Texas Tornado vs. Rick Martel
Tornado looks surprisingly lucid here, despite being deep into drug use and perpetually aloof around this period. Perhaps this match being in Texas had something to do with it. Still, despite that, this isn’t much of a match. Honestly, having sat through a six-and-a-half hour ‘Best of Rick Martel’ fan-made DVD set, I’ve come to find him one of the most overrated wrestlers there was. I mean, he’s always regarded as a good technical wrestler, and he was sound, no question. But was he ever really “good”? How many great Rick Martel matches do you remember, particularly from this period? I always found him to be like Davey Boy Smith from this same time frame, perfectly serviceable but only ever working to the level of his opponent. Having watched a lot of his earlier career, he seems more suited to tag teams and making fiery babyface comebacks, and whilst the Model gimmick wasn’t bad, his interest in it seemed to wane a bit. It is no coincidence; Martel was beginning to focus most of his energies into a second career in real estate as preparation for a life after wrestling. So here’s Martel working to the level of his opponent, and in this case, an opponent past his prime who was sadly pretty average at best during his WWF stint, despite having been involved in some phenomenal matches during his days competing for his father Fritz Von Erich’s World Class Championship Wrestling promotion out of Dallas. As a result, you’ve got a fairly dour match, with an infuriatingly bad ending to boot, as Martel sprays his can of Arrogance cologne into Tornado’s eyes for the lousy DQ. Why? I guess they didn’t want The Texas Tornado to lose in Austin, but did Martel really need protecting from a pinfall loss? If so, why not book Tornado with someone he could beat clean? Shitty, shitty finish.
Final Rating:

 

Snakes Make Fun Pets
Jake ‘the Snake’ Roberts lets us know that like Coliseum Video fans, snakes like little kittens and little puppies, albeit not as friends but as something to eat. Apparently, sometimes they get so hungry they eat themselves, and they’ve been around since the beginning of time as evidenced by Adam and Eve. The leads to Jake complaining about Jack Tunney banning his snakes from ringside and giving his reasons for being a fan. Next, the thoroughly ridiculous snake-biting angle with Randy Savage. If ever proof was needed that Savage was completely nuts, this was it, as he willingly allowed himself to be bitten on the arm by a king cobra. For real. Back in time now as babyface Jake takes us through his collection (including, funnily enough, Lucifer, “Damien’s big brother” who became Jake’s on-air snake after Earthquake squashed, cooked and ate Damien in a rather silly angle earlier in 1991. And what was it with WWF angles in ’91-early ’92 anyway? Earthquake murdering Damien, Jake allowing a king cobra to gnaw on Savage’s arm, Jake burying The Ultimate Warrior alive, The Undertaker locking Warrior in an airtight casket, American turncoat Sgt. Slaughter sympathising with Iraq during the Gulf War and throwing a fireball in Hulk Hogan’s face, Shawn Michaels throwing Marty Jannetty head-first through plate glass… All pretty extreme for what at the time was essentially a live action cartoon show). Jake finishes by saying the next time things go bump in the night and you ask yourself who the man under your bed is, it’ll be him. Creepy Jake was awesome, although much like tape host Piper, he was gone by the time Crunch Classic came out in stores. In fact, it was a pretty tumultuous time all-around for the WWF, as Jake, Piper and Hogan all left the promotion on the same day (WrestleMania VIII being their respective finales). On top of that, Sid Justice left after the post-WrestleMania European tour, with Warrior having only just returned and Savage having only returned to in-ring action a few months earlier. I guess pickings were slim in terms of matches featuring top line main event performers, so perhaps that’s why this tape is so severely lacking in star power.

 

Jim Neidhart vs. Skinner
Hey, remember when Steve Keirn was a poster-boy Fabulous One with ‘Sweet’ Stan Lane in the Memphis promotion? Here, he’s a sloppy, balding, tobacco-chewing alligator hunter from the Florida Everglades. Quite the perception change. And every time I see him on screen, I’m always reminded of a story I read about two kids who went to a WWF show and were giving him a bunch of shit as he went to the ring, so he stopped in his tracks, turned round, and spit a huge glob of his chewing tobacco in one of the kid’s mouths. Needless to say, only one of those two kids remains a wrestling fan. There’s a suitably bizarre start to the match, as Skinner clearly forgets his gimmick so after the opening bell, he just runs backstage, leaving the crowd utterly perplexed. He returns with a spittoon and an alligator claw, guaranteeing it’s use in a few minutes. The match starts proper with some admittedly nice hiptosses, and then Skinner busts out his Fabulous Ones strut/dance, which looks hilariously out of place given the juxtaposition of the disco heart-throb and the alligator man. And then the match just shudders to a horrifically excruciating plane of rubbish. Skinner argues on the outside with a full grown man in the front row dressed in face paint and Legion of Doom child’s foam shoulder pads, then puts Neidhart in an interminable camel clutch (crocodile clutch?) for what feels like an ice age. The gator claw of course comes in to play, but both guys end up brawling to the outside for a time limit draw (SMEG OFF!) after about 13-minutes of useless non-action. WHY? WHY? WHY? Who’s being protected there? Why torture your fanbase with that garbage then book an inconclusive finish? Why even book that match if you can’t put somebody over? Christ, Davey Boy Smith did a job on this tape, but Neidhart and Skinner are so valuable they have to go to a time limit after putting on such a brutal performance? It was clear neither guy could be arsed here. What an insult to the paying customer this was. Alfred says we might hear more from WWF President Jack Tunney about this match because “neither man came out glowing with honours.” Yeah, I hope he fired the pair of them after that performance. Just insufferable.
Final Rating: DUD

 

Tag Team Match of the Month
The Natural Disasters vs. Hacksaw Jim Duggan & Sgt. Slaughter
Let’s just consider this for a second. “Tag Team Match of the Month”. These teams. THESE teams! A little over three years earlier, the WWF was crammed full of exciting duos like The Rockers, The Brain Busters and The Hart Foundation, and now ‘The Patriotic Pair’ are apparently enough to constitute “Match of the Month” quality action. Not to mention this took place in the same month that played host to The New Foundation vs. Orient Express Royal Rumble match, which although not a classic by any means, was certainly a damn sight better than this slice of tedium. Sean Mooney notes that when he and Alfred were in the production meeting earlier that afternoon and they heard about this match, they both looked at each other and said it would be “incredible.” When I heard I was going to have to watch this match, the word I thought of was “slow.” In fact, to paraphrase Gorilla Monsoon; when I heard I was going to have to watch this match, I tried to literally hang myself from the rafters. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with what they do. Of course not. It’s all just so colourless and meandering. About the most notable thing is Duggan’s pre-match gesticulating to let the audience know that the Disasters are fat (well, duh) and that he’s going to slam them (spoiler: he doesn’t). He does wrestle the majority of the match though, so I wonder if Slaughter was hurt or if they were just trading off on the in-ring work (“You take the heat in this match, I’ll stand on the apron and next time we’ll switch”). In fact, he only comes in after Duggan gets the lukewarm tag after the Disasters have spent a few minutes getting the indifference (oops, I mean the heat) on him, at which point things break down into a pier six brawl (whatever that means), these four handily putting the word “slug” into “slugfest”. And then Duggan planks Earthquake with his 2×4 for the dreadfully pointless disqualification finish. WHO ARE THEY PROTECTING? I believe at this point the plan was for the Disasters to face The Legion of Doom at WrestleMania VIII in a street fight for the tag team titles, so why couldn’t they just win this match clean? On that same show, the thrown-together combo of Duggan & Slaughter would have done a job for the new team of Money Inc. to get them ready for LOD, so perhaps the WWF didn’t want Duggan & Slaughter doing any jobs until then, but if that’s the case, why even bother making this match? It’s not like you could justify it by saying it was at least going to be a good match until the finish, because even Stevie Wonder could have seen that it was going to blow chunks. As it happened, Hawk got suspended for failing a drug test and LOD dropped the titles directly to Money Inc. at a house show in Denver on February 7th, 1992, necessitating a babyface turn for the Disasters to even up the babyface/heel divide and to give Money Inc. some credible opposition until the LOD returned. As a consequence, the Duggan/Slaughter team no longer served any purpose, so protecting them from a clean job here was all a moot point in the end anyway. Meanwhile, Alfred calls the match a “travesty” and for once, he’s not wrong.
Final Rating: DUD

 

Unrelated note about this taping: according to Billy Jack Haynes, Pat Patterson had told him he could get a tryout at this show so Haynes drove to the building only for Vince McMahon to tell him on arrival that the show had already been put together, that he was unaware Haynes was coming in, and that they couldn’t use him. The same situation again happened at the Superstars taping in Amarillo. To conclude, Piper philosophises: “May you live a half-an-hour in heaven before the devil knows you’re dead.” I can only imagine hell would be a repeat performance of this tape.

 

Summary: Crunch Classic? I think a more appropriate title for this tape would have been The Meandering Mid-Card of the WWF. Of the eight matches on offer, three of them ended in disqualifications and one went to a double count-out, yet none of those finishes served any purpose. I can forgive a disqualification that leads to a return match with no disqualification or street fight rules, but nothing here builds to anything, making those matches completely worthless. On top of that, if you’re hardcore enough to be collecting old Coliseum Videos then I can only presume you’re also the sort of person who’s already collected all the old WWF pay-per-views too, rendering the two Piper matches worthless, which just leaves you with just two exclusive matches of any worth – Undertaker-Bulldog which you might consider worth seeing once, but once will certainly be more than enough given this is still an early-era Undertaker level match; and Virgil/Bossman-IRS/DiBiase, which is the best thing on the tape (which isn’t really anything to brag about) and might be considered worth a look if you’re really desperate to see Money Inc. at their most embryonic. And really, who doesn’t want to see that, right? Take a pass on this big old pile of crap, it’s not worth 90 minutes of your life.
Verdict: 25

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