Lee Maughan: Before we begin, The Ultimate Warrior threatens us not to smoke. Sean Mooney is our host.
The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hercules
This was a pretty big match for a syndicated TV show, so that should tip you off that something’s up. Usually, the likes of Superstars and Wrestling Challenge in those days were packed full of squash matches and localised live event promos, and any semblance of a match with two ‘name’ wrestlers usually meant an established star (i.e. Jake Roberts) going against a bottom-rung ‘jobber to the stars’ type (i.e. Boris Zhukov.) Sure enough, before the match starts, Hercules demands a test of strength with the Warrior. Not just any test of strength mind you, but a good old fashioned Tug-O-War, with Hercules’ steel chain substituting for a rope. Hercules’ manager Bobby Heenan doesn’t want him to go through with it, but Warrior accepts and the challenge is on. Hercules gets frustrated that he can’t budge Warrior, and then Warrior snaps the chain in half, sending Hercules flying. Humiliated, Hercules’ clotheslines Warrior across the throat with the chain then chokes him out until a herd of jobbers and officials can escort him out of the ring. An enraged Warrior catches up with him halfway down the aisle and chokes Hercules out with his half of the chain, setting up Warrior’s first real program in the WWF, although their matches inevitably blew chunks. Good angle though.
World Bench Press Record Attempt
Hell on earth next, as it’s the entire, uncut segment from the first Royal Rumble (the one that aired for free on USA Network in an attempt to damage Jim Crockett’s Bunkhouse Stampede pay-per-view that was airing at the same time) in which Dino Bravo (along with help from his spotter Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura) attempts to set a bogus world bench press record, which wouldn’t be so bad except they move through the whole process at a snail’s pace instead of going right for the alleged 700 pounds. In fact, his first lift is at just 415 pounds, and then they go up in varying increments until finally reaching 700, only for Bravo to be unable to lift the weight without assistance from Ventura. Bravo claims a world record anyway, and Ventura tries to explain how he didn’t add any pressure to the lift, so it’s legitimate. So I guess Bravo’s gimmick was that he was extremely strong, but also a brazen liar. The whole segment was absolutely interminable, unless you really dig watching puffy dudes lift heavy metal, and I’d be remiss in not pointing out that we’re about 20 minutes into a 60 minute tape, and we haven’t seen a single match yet.
Dino Bravo vs. Hercules
There’s close to a 17-month gap between the previous two segments on this tape and this match, but let’s just pretend that all roads led to this in the hope it might marginally improve what, on paper, looks to be a thoroughly crappy match. In fact, given that this tape came out during Hercules’ babyface run and this specific match comes from said run, I wonder why they even included the angle where he basically tried to strangle the Warrior? Hercules? More like ‘Jerk-ules’, man! Not that I’m advocating it, but wouldn’t it have made more sense to follow that up with a Warrior-Hercules match? I suppose one should be grateful for small mercies, having already reviewed one such encounter on the Best of the WWF Vol. 16: Around the World tape. I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on these two, because when there was actual motion, it wasn’t too bad. A couple of charges, a few shoulderblocks, a slugfest in the middle. But away from that, it was all so painfully predictable and tiresome to sit through. Long test of strength? Check. Long side headlock? Check. Long chinlock? Check. Frankly, this was one bearhug away from being a musclebear enthusiast’s wet dream. Eventually, Hercules calls for his finisher but oddly goes for the torture rack backbreaker, which I only have a vague recollection of ever seeing him use as a finisher, rather than the full nelson. He releases it too early, thinking he’s won. Oh great, a stupid babyface. Somehow, that ends up with Hercules on the outside and he tries a sunset flip into the ring, but Bravo sits down into it and grabs the ropes for leverage, and gets the pin. Match wasn’t awful, nor was it particularly interesting.
Final Rating: *
WWF Tag Team Championship
Demolition (c) vs. The Powers of Pain
Sandwiched between the original double turn angle at the 1988 Survivor Series and the final blowoff at WrestleMania V comes this entry into the Demolition-Powers of Pain series, a surprisingly sprightly affair given the penchant of Ax, Smash, The Warlord and The Barbarian to spend the majority of their matches clubbing their opponents into the mat with forearms, punches and kicks. This was one of those matches where a truncated length became a positive. Sometimes, short matches can feel like a let down, like you’ve been ripped off. This match only went just over 6 minutes, but given that I was expecting 15 minutes of 300+ pound guys lying about in rest holds, and instead got 6 minutes of bell-to-bell action, I found it to be a real eye-opener. The hot crowd certainly helped, as they were absolutely amped up, ready to see Demolition extract some revenge on the Powers of Pain after the betrayal of their former manager Mr. Fuji. Sadly, that didn’t quite happen as botched interference from Fuji led to a tussle in the ring, leaving Ax with Fuji’s steel walking cane, and an over-zealous referee calling for the bell right when it looked like a full-scale war was about to break out. A lot of the time, you can complain about cheap disqualification or count-out finishes, but I personally don’t mind them when there’s method to such madness. In this case, there was money to be made for months on end on the house show circuit, promoting matches between these two teams. But with a feud-ending match planned for WrestleMania V, neither team could realistically beat the other until then, without one weakening the other. The time certainly wasn’t right for Demolition to lose the titles, nor would it have been wise to have the Powers of Pain lose before they (along with Fuji as a third partner) challenged Demolition in the big grudge match at Trump Plaza.
Final Rating: **¾
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Andre the Giant
This is from WrestleMania III, so what else can be said about this match that hasn’t been said before? Nothing. In fact, everyone contributing reviews to HoW has already reviewed this match at least once across several different releases. I mean, I know they were proud of WrestleMania III and very rightfully so, but did they really need to recycle it as many times as they did? It’s on at least three of the cut-price Collector’s Series tapes alone! Suffice it to say, this hardly needs reviewing again.
Final Rating: **½
Summary: Whilst it’s tough to complain about a tape titled WWF Strong Men being devoted to the likes of Hercules, Dino Bravo, Hulk Hogan and the Powers of Pain, the fact remains that the majority of the video is taken up by yet another re-airing of the Hogan-Andre the Giant WrestleMania III clash and the horrifically dull bench press angle. The Warrior-Hercules chain-snapping angle was good but not something that really needs seeking out specifically or seeing more than once, and that just leaves the quickie Demolition-Powers of Pain match as the only WWF Strong Men-exclusive match of any worth. Whether this tape holds any value for you ultimately comes down to how big of a Demolition mark you were in 1989. It’s too bad Coliseum Video didn’t include that match on the Demolition VHS release actually.