James Dixon & Lee Maughan:
JD – Once again, I am joined in my corner of the office by the wrestling encyclopedia himself; Lee Maughan.
LM – Hi. So, this is hosted by Vince McMahon, who calls this the first tape in the Collectors Series, despite its catalogue number placing it after The WWF’s Greatest Matches. McMahon notes that at the time of production, Hulk Hogan has been champion for over two years, with titles defences on “no less than 25 occasions.” What a strange attempt at establishing some kind of credibility to Hogan’s reign. I wonder how many he really had?
JD – 25!? He will have had hundreds. Surely that sounds better than 25!? Come on Vince, learn how to sell your talent!
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Brutus Beefcake
LM – This is from the Spectrum in Philadelphia from February 1985, and I believe it may be exclusive to this tape. So there is that James, an exclusive!
JD – If I took a shit in your house and said it was “exclusive”, would you want to see it?
LM – Hey, that’s my line! When Chris Martin said everyone should buy that last version of Band Aid, even if they didn’t like it, because it was a charity single. But it’s like, if I take a shit in a bag, does Gwyneth Paltrow feel obliged to fork out £2.99 for a slice, just because a portion of it goes to feed third-world hunger victims?
JD – I believe you have proven my point, Lee! Anyway, we mustn’t tangent. So, Lee, do you prefer Brutus as a babyface or a heel?
LM – A babyface because he’s not controlling the match then, as his heel offence was never all that interesting. He was a much improved worker after The Dream Team run too, and really hit his peak around 1989 when he was super over.
JD – Yeah, but if he wasn’t Hogan’s best bud, he would never have been given the chances to get to that level. Just like there was no way he should have been working for the title here either.
LM – That’s true, although you can’t deny that he and Hogan have some pretty good chemistry here, hardly surprising given they broke in together.
JD – I dunno man, it seems like every other Hogan match to me. Beefcake’s offence is just so weak, strikes and chokes, and little else.
LM – This is still early into Hogan’s reign mind, his stuff from this period just feels a lot more energetic to me. For truly tedious Hogan formula you gotta watch his stuff with Kamala, One Man Gang et al from after the Andre match, where he’s on a clear comedown.
JD – Maybe the Python Powder had run out. The problem with Hogan as a big babyface champion, is that you struggle to get any heat on him because he is friggin’ Superman. The smaller guys can’t do much outside of what Beefcake has done here, and that leaves the big lugs as the only credible opponents, and thus reams of shitty matches occur with guys just like the ones you mentioned.
LM – Absolutely, but you can’t deny it was working, even if it wasn’t interesting for the hardcore.
JD – Well, yes to a point, but look how the fans ended up turning on him once they got a look at the workrate guys like Bret, Shawn and Flair. They finally woke up to the fact that there was more to wrestling than Hogan’s tired routine. Look here, Hogan doesn’t even beat his friend properly; he catches a cheeky roll-up! Nepotism running wild!
Final Rating: **
Bob Backlund (c) vs. The Iron Sheik
JD – Ok, someone explain to me what on earth this is doing on a Hogan tape!? We just did this on the last tape they brought out, which was released at the same goddamn time! Had Coliseum lost their collective minds?
LM – You just complained about Hogan formula! Well here’s your break, and you’re still whining!
JD – Because it is frankly, absurd.
LM – Well here is what we said a few pages ago anyway:
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
The Iron Sheik (c) vs. Hulk Hogan
JD – This is of course one of the most famous matches in history, from MSG in January 1984, just a month after Sheik won the title. This features on a number of Coliseum releases and is covered extensively elsewhere in this book. Ok Lee, I put this to you: was there a worse WWF champion pre-90s than the Iron Sheik?
LM – Do Andre the Giant and Ted DiBiase count? I mean, Andre was champion and he just gave it away!
JD – Sure. Though I don’t think either was worse.
LM – Sheik wasn’t all that bad really, though he was clearly the right guy in the right place at the right time in terms of transitioning the title. Same as with Ivan Koloff and Stan Stasiak, who both also had one month reigns. Hell, Superstar Billy Graham was only champion for 11 months, despite being a big draw, because Vince McMahon Sr. didn’t care for heel champions.
JD – Superstar was a real shame. He came too early. He would have been massive in the 80s if he turned up then. Same with Jesse Ventura actually. I mean, can you imagine Graham vs. Hogan for the title, with Ventura vs. Savage on the undercard?
LM – Well, Ventura was a big star for Vene Gagne in the AWA, but he developed blood clots in his lungs that he claimed were a result of his exposure to Agent Orange, during his time as a Navy SEAL during the Vietnam War. That cut his WWF career short, although to be honest, he was pretty terrible once the bell rang anyway. Jesse’s forte was his charisma and his mic skills.
JD – Hogan was hardly Ric Flair or Bret Hart between the ropes though, was he? Charisma and presence is everything, and Ventura had both, along with the best voice in the business.
LM – Yeah but even Hogan could wrestle rings around him. Ventura was the pits. In the AWA, he had Adrian Adonis as a partner to do all the work for him, and Jesse was an explosion of colour who carried the interviews.
JD – Maybe so. This is all hypothetical anyway. What is not hypothetical is that crowd reaction for Hogan’s win. I have seen it countless times, and it remains unreal. Have you ever heard a sustained pop quite like it? Rock, Austin, Cena and whoever else since, have never come close to drawing that level of raw emotion.
LM – They wanted Hogan and they got Hogan. BIG time. Little did they know just a few short years later, they’d be sick of the sight of him. And then want him back. And then want him gone again. And then back again. Then gone again. Ah, the fickle nature of superstardom.
Final Rating: *½
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. The Iron Sheik
JD – We go back to the Spectrum for this rematch, from May 1984. Hogan is wearing some rather fetching bright turquoise attire. The Honky Tonk Man has a theory that once someone wears baby blue, their career goes downhill. It happened to Don Muraco, it happened to Greg Valentine and it happened to Sid Justice (in the WWF at least). Obviously the curse of the baby blue didn’t begin until after Hogan had done it.
LM – What about Mr. Perfect? He wore that colour quite a bit.
JD – It only counts if they wear trunks. Though saying that, his last match before being out for a year against Bret Hart at SummerSlam 91, he wore baby blue in that.
LM – Ok then. This should be quite interesting, because much like the Hogan-Andre WrestleMania III match, everyone’s probably seen the Hogan-Sheik title change, and many times over, but this one is much less known.
JD– I didn’t even know this existed. God bless Coliseum’s Video Control department for clipping it though.
LM – To be honest, I wouldn’t have been sad if they’d clipped or cut completely the last match and shown this in full, at least it’s something different and it looks suitably bloody, like a lot of Hogan’s 1984 house show matches. It’s a shame there’s very little out there from Sheik’s run as champion really. I’ve seen precisely one title defence he had, also from the Spectrum, against Tito Santana.
JD – Well, he did only have the belt for a month. His other title defences came opposite the likes of Pat Patterson, Chief Jay Strongbow and Salvatore Bellomo. He did have a rematch with Backlund at Boston Garden, which Backlund won on a DQ. So, Hogan hits the big boot and the legdrop, but instead of covering him, he reveals his secret foot fetish to the world, as he obsesses over removing Sheik’s boot. I’m half surprised he didn’t stop and sniff it, though he might yet. He appears to have claimed the boot as his prize, though now he is using it to flog Sheik. I wonder about Hogan, sometimes.
LM – Well that was an abrupt ending! Match was 14 minutes but we only got to see four of them, which makes it kind of hard to judge whether it would have been any good or not. I’m not even sure how it ended! They were boot-wrangling, then suddenly the referee was on Hogan’s back and the ring was full of jabronis.
JD – It was a double count out I believe, according to Mel Phillips anyway. I guess it was when Hogan was using the boot on the outside.
LM – Maybe that part was clipped out. It seemed to be a horrible editing job in the end, they just butchered the hell out of that match. It was like being shown a three course meal but only being allowed the bread, the mushy peas and the whipped cream off the trifle.
JD – Yeah it is a shame, as you said it looked bloody and pretty decent, probably better than the title change.
Final Rating: Not rated (Clipped)
Steel Cage Match
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Don Muraco
JD – June 1985 for this one and once again we are at MSG. It is the legendary stars of Fuji Vice! They should have given Muraco the title for his role in that alone. If Fuji Vice had happened in the WWE Films era, they would have made it into a movie.
LM – Why did No Holds Barred get a DVD release in 2012, but not Fuji Vice?! That’s what the people really want!
JD– Come on Lee, you know the WWE have never listened to what their audience wants! So Lee, if they brought back the TNT show in say, 2012, who do you think could have starred in some of the segments? Specifically, who could have been the new Fuji and Muraco?
LM – It’s tough to say, because without the managers, there’s nobody really for the Fuji role, and the anti-chemistry that Muraco and Fuji had, I don’t think you could really replicate that. I mean, can you think of a single person in the WWE in the modern era who would be as wooden as Muraco, given all their constant scripting? Part of Muraco’s charm in those things was his constant reliance on idiot boards.
JD – Surely Alberto Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez could fit the role? They would have been perfect.
LM – Well, you have a point there. But knowing WWE, they’d do it with Santino and have him be in on the joke too, making it all wink wink and very knowing, and thus entirely unfunny in the process. Not to rail on Santino or anything.
JD – Yeah, the problem with writers and the modern day WWE is that everything has to be streamlined and well produced. If something is hokey, it has to be made clear that they are being purposefully hokey, lest, Kevin Dunn will have a fit. That is why John Cena talks into the camera before every match, so the fans know it’s all just a big joke when he wrestles. Check out Hogan being a dick at the start of this match and chucking the title belt at Muraco. Not only is he a shitty face, but he is also a disrespectful one. Just wanted to throw that in there. So anyway, TNT…
LM – As far as other current wrestlers in TNT skits? I guess Vickie Guerrero and Michael Cole would have been ‘nominated’ for constant ridicule, and you could always have taken Daniel Bryan out clam digging.
JD – If they brought it back and Vince had hosted it, that would be awesome. Actually, Triple H presenting it would be pretty good. William Regal could have taken Hayes’ role
LM – That would be fried gold, but you know Kevin Dunn would insist Michael Cole host it. Or Matt Striker, which would be unbearable.
JD – You are right, of course. It would become just another show, with writers doing the skits, rather than letting the wrestlers, sorry, sports entertainers, get their personalities over.
LM – Although, I would have tuned in every week if they did a running gag where Kane wandered into shot during unrelated sketches, did his pose, and something different in the studio burst into flames. After that he could just walk off without saying a word, and then they just carry on with the show.
JD – Amazing! We should campaign to make this happen. Cheap and easy programming, no-one gets buried and everyone gets over. Oh right yeah, the match… Hogan is bleeding while acting like a heel and Muraco is dogging it, because that’s what he did in the mid-80s. They are both bleeding actually, we have a double juicer here. Mean Gene is getting worried about a female network executive at ringside who has “lost it” at the sight of the blood. He says it in a tone like someone has died. Mean Gene was a valuable commodity as a backstage reporter, but the shits as an announcer.
LM – It’s funny how some guys worked out like that. Jim Cornette was a terrific interview and a much-admired colour commentator. He was even a dab-hand at babyface play-by-play as evidenced by his OVW tenure, even if his boundless enthusiasm was a little overbearing for a show primarily focusing on rookies. Arn Anderson on the other hand, was a fantastic promo guy but made for a horrible colour commentator. I don’t think Gene’s that bad as an announcer but he’s horrible in comparison to his work as an interviewer or event shill. He is best as a shameless huckster.
JD – So anyway, Hogan wins the match by escaping out of the door of the cage, and thus retains the title.
Final Rating: *½
Summary: Overall, that started off well enough and tailed off by the end, but at 40 minutes it was pretty breezy and did have a couple of major moments included. Then again, the clipping in that second Sheik match was infuriating. These Hogan tapes are ten a penny, and you know what you are going to get from them. As usual, if you love Hogan you will love this, but if not then don’t bother.