James Dixon & Lee Maughan:
JD – I am joined for this special Collector’s Series tape by Lee Maughan. Can you give me a little history on this series of tapes Lee?
LM – They’re from the very short-lived ‘Collector’s Series’ line from 1985, which were shorter than the usual Coliseum Videos and offered at a lower price point than the regular tapes. In the early days, most of the Coliseum releases were deliberately priced out of the reach of most fans, to ensure big returns from the then hot rental market, as was common practice at the time with the home video industry.
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Paul Orndorff
JD – Holy shit, just listen to that crowd. This match comes from just after WrestleMania in April 1985, and we are in Toronto at the Maple Leaf Gardens. Orndorff takes too long posing on the ropes, so Hogan takes him out with a back suplex and a clothesline. It’s a typical lack of sportsmanship from Hogan! Jesse Ventura appears to have a sore throat on commentary.
LM – This is pretty rare to see Orndorff working as a heel post-WrestleMania, given he’d all but turned babyface when Roddy Piper and Bob Orton walked out him, although he wouldn’t fully cement his turn until the first Saturday Night’s Main Event in May. It’s also kind of rare to hear Jesse Ventura handle announcing duties for a house show, as he mostly stuck to television tapings and pay-per-views.
JD – I believe Orndorff continues his turn in this match actually. I have discussed Orndorff at length before, and feel he could have been a great WWF champion as a babyface or a heel. Where do you stand on that?
LM – I could see Orndorff defending the title against Hogan at WrestleMania III and doing the same kind of business the Hogan-Andre match did. The unexpected 64,000 house one of the Hogan-Orndorff matches pulled to the Canadian National Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, for what was originally just expected to be a run-of-the-mill house show, is a testament to how hot that issue was.
JD – I agree, absolutely. I think Orndorff could have been a major player for years if he had stuck around, and could have had some real belters with the workrate guys that the company had.
LM – I think his “old school” mentality of working through his shoulder injury I think played a big part in his downfall unfortunately, but I don’t think he felt like he had any choice. He could have taken time off to rehab but he was on the greatest money-drawing streak of his career with Hogan, and felt like he couldn’t throw that away. As a result, he was never quite the same once the arm atrophied the way it did. Plus, once the Hogan program was finished, he was pretty expendable to the company as evidenced by his damp squib of a second babyface run, and subsequent disappearance from wrestling.
JD – He has not been able to showcase his best stuff in this match though, because he is having to hold back a little on the aggression, knowing that his face turn is imminent. Thus, it has been rather slow and more stomps than anything else.
LM – I do like the way he’s not cheating or doing anything typically heelish in this match though. Perhaps it does hurt it a little, but as part of his ongoing redemption, it’s a terrific bit of psychology. Oh for the days when a babyface turn took two months rather than a single episode of Raw. Or, in Kane’s case, whenever the writers feel like it, no angle required.
JD – With this being prior to Hogan having fallen into his routine match night after night, the finish comes out of no-where as Hogan rolls through a crossbody from the top into a pin. There is no way that Orndorff’s shoulders were down there. This is another case of Paul Orndorff getting screwed out of the title against Hogan. It happened in the cage match they had as well. For the record, Hogan might as well have said “na na, na na na” as he pointed at and mocked Orndorff following his win. Post match, Orndorff offers Hogan his hand, and after much deliberation, he accepts. The turn continues!
Final Rating: **½
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Tito Santana (c) vs. Macho Man Randy Savage
JD – Ok, this comes from Boston Garden in February 1986, and it has featured in clipped form on various other tapes
LM – You can also get the full, unclipped match on the Macho Madness: Randy Savage Ultimate Collection DVD in obviously higher visual quality.
JD – Tito Santana then, Lee. Why did the WWF stop pushing him all of a sudden and turn him into a JTTS? He never lost it in the ring, and was always popular, with great fire. Tito, in my opinion, could have been a great underdog champion, much like Savage was.
LM – Well, it was kind of a gradual process but it’s a very clear one, and I think once a guy has had his run and held his title, Vince starts to see him as old hat and moves him down the card. Santana I guess was kept around longer than most, because he was such a dependable talent who didn’t complain, worked hard, and could always be relied upon to give his opponent the best match possible. It’s always useful to have a guy like that around who still has some residual credibility to put your new, upcoming stars over. Unlike the modern era where guys like Tyson Kidd, Justin Gabriel or The Usos are on the roster to basically shine up other guys, yet they’ve never been given the chance to really get over and enjoy a run higher up the card themselves. Those younger guys aren’t over, so they just do jobs on TV all the time and as a result, never get over, and it all becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
JD – You answered that like a politician! I get why they did it, not that I agree with it though, because why would you have the talentless likes of The Warlord and The Barbarian crush someone like Tito?
LM – I guess because your name is Vince McMahon and you have a hard on for 6’6″, 330 pound steroid freaks with muscles practically ripping out of their skin. I guess he figured superheroes were more likely to sell action figures and ice cream bars than a classic-style wrestler like Tito. I guess that’s why he got the El Matador makeover in 1991, to give him a cartoon persona.
JD – Regardless of the reasons for why they didn’t do it, do you think they COULD have given him the title? Could it have been Tito winning it at Mania IV instead of Savage?
LM – I think the title was beyond Tito. He was a great talent but he was never quite ‘the’ guy. His series with Greg Valentine over the Intercontinental title headlined plenty of B-level house shows, but I think that was probably Santana’s ceiling. He maybe could have held it as a transitional champion if the WWF had been hot on heel champions, a’la the National Wrestling Alliance, but they were much more into the idea of promoting Hogan as the number one guy, and to be the number one guy, at least in those days, you needed to have the title.
JD – Just to recap for those who haven’t seen it, but this was a back-and-forth affair, with Savage winning following the use of a foreign object, as Tito tried to back suplex him back into the ring. The heel victory is greeted with the sound of THUNDEROUS applause. Savage was over like rover with the embryonic smarks. It is easy to see why.
Final Rating: ***
Bob Backlund (c) vs. The Iron Sheik
JD – Bob Backlund; I do not like that man! What is it with him anyway? Did he have a personal vendetta against Hogan or something? He left as Hogan arrived and then returned in the 90’s just as Hulk scarpered…
LM – He was actually responsible for bringing Hogan back to the WWF, at least on-screen. Hogan’s return was as Backlund’s mystery partner in a TV match against The Wild Samoans at the tail end of 1983, where Backlund told the fans Hogan was a changed man. Backlund quit for real when Vince asked him to dye his hair and turn heel to challenge Hogan, because Backlund didn’t want to ruin his image. I guess time healed those wounds given his eventual turn a decade later. Why he is “playing” Sheik’s tit though, I cannot explain.
JD – That is rather disturbing. He might as well be screaming “HOOOONNNK” as he does it! Backlund really should have dyed his hair, he had woeful hair. He also has shocking ring gear, wearing a cheap amateur singlet. Have you ever seen a champion that looks LESS like a champion than Backlund does here? It is as if he jumped on a coach to go to the Olympic wrestling trials, and the confused bus driver took him to MSG instead. Well, he was actually a fairly accomplished amateur wrestler prior to joining the pro ranks I suppose. Some nice scientific exchanges between these two here. Sheik doesn’t get the credit he maybe deserves for his wrestling ability.
LM – Oh yeah, he was a great amateur wrestler in his youth and was pretty solid in the ring, at least by the standards of the day, busting out suplexes and stuff.
JD – I have not seen a great deal of the Sheik in his prime, and even here he was 40 years old. When I think of him, I picture the lumbering guy who couldn’t take the bump out of the ring at WrestleMania XVII and thus had to win the Gimmick Battle Royal. That is a disservice to him though, he was a good hand in his heyday. So, a very famous finish in this one anyway, with Sheik putting on his camel clutch and Backlund’s manager Arnold Skaaland throwing in the towel. Backlund doesn’t actually give up, but it is the same as a submission. This is a finish the WWF recycled when Backlund beat Bret Hart for the title in 1994, in a rare but very welcome case of things coming full circle and the company’s history being remembered and referenced. Though, you could argue that things actually came even more full circle when Sheik and Backlund made friends and managed The Sultan…
LM – And what a monster-sized success that turned out to be.
JD – It was still better than “time to make a difference” Fatu! No-one sent fans rushing to the popcorn stall quite like he did. That match was better than I was expecting by the way, it really kicked on into a hot finish at the end, after a relatively slow start
Final Rating: *¾
WWF Tag Team Championship
The Dream Team (c) vs. Hillbilly Jim & Uncle Elmer
JD – The final match of the tape comes from MSG in August 1984, and I have to ask: what the hell is this!? Is someone ribbing me here? Has someone switched the tape over while I was drinking my coffee? Who in their right mind would put anything with those inbred goons on a “greatest matches” tape? I just cannot fathom this decision at all, absolute nonsense. Why would THIS round out the tape and not any of the other three much more important matches? The WWF should be ashamed.
LM – Not a fan of those good ole’ country boys eh?
JD – What tipped you off? Just look at the state of that fat bastard. Who, other than Vince and probably Lord Alfred Hayes, finds this gimmick even remotely entertaining?
LM – Granny?
JD – Oh Christ, I forgot about her. I cannot believe that such a strong tape is going to be butchered to shreds by this Vince fantasy bullshit. Answer me this: is Uncle Elmer worse than Typhoon?
LM – I think in the grand pantheon it probably goes Typhoon > Tugboat > Uncle Elmer
JD – The only positive I can say about Elmer, is that he was perfect for the gimmick. He was supposed to be a Hillbilly plucked from no-where who did some “scufflin” but couldn’t wrestle. He certainly has the latter down pat.
LM – Poor Greg though. The Dream Team was supposed to be a chance for him to help Beefcake improve, but I don’t think he was expecting to have to do the work for four guys in a single match!
JD – Valentine is like Tito in that he got the shitty end of the stick once the WWF expanded. Screw that match, what a pile of crap. Don’t dare give it the courtesy of describing a single move.
Final Rating: DUD
Summary: Calling this ‘The WWF’s Greatest Matches’ might have been a stretch, but it’s kind of hard to argue against two gigantic title changes and three good matches in all, taking up the bulk of the tape. Obviously, that last match never really happened… I wish. But even with that damp squib of a finale, this was a pretty fine waste of 41 approximate minutes. Mildly recommended.