Lee Maughan: It goes without saying that all of these matches are contested inside a steel cage.
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant
Another Hogan-Andre match, another enormous stadium setting. This one comes from the massive WrestleFest house show at Milwaukee Stadium, and it’s the one and only steel cage match meeting between these two, at least that I’m aware of, and certainly from their late 80s run. With this being firmly into the blue-barred “escape the cage” era, you have to wonder what these two can actually do to build any drama or suspense, since there’s almost no chance of Andre actually trying to climb up the cage. There’s been a lot written over the years about the WWF’s attitude to steel cage matches, namely its propensity to run them with “escape” rules, unlike every other promotion across the globe. Although, since WWF cage matches were the first ones I ever saw, I always accepted those rules as the conventional ones and was beyond surprised upon eventually seeing NWA cage matches that ended by a pinfall or a submission. I just didn’t understand the purpose of the cage if you were going to have a regular match. A naïve young lad, I figured the cage was there specifically to be climbed in order to give specific bouts an altogether different feel, like a cat-and-mouse version of a wrestling match. It never occurred to me that its original intention was to keep people from interfering, although considering outside interference in cage matches was frequent by then and the point was to climb over the cage anyway, that should hardly be surprising. Nowadays, having watched a plethora of cage matches from different eras and different promotions, I can really see the silliness in the idea that you’d be trying to escape the cage given that you’re not actually trying to beat your opponent, just survive against him, but then I suppose it does make some kind of sense when you’re in there against Andre the Giant. Naturally, Andre jumps the gun as Hogan tries to get into the cage and just beats the tar out of him, which leads to Andre choking Hogan out with his own bandanna. Not much else happens before Hogan eventually starts bleeding from the forehead, a sure-fire way to mask any shortcomings in the action. Andre’s at least menacing enough and still has enough presence here to carry things to an extent, but there’s not a whole lot these two can really do together without being able to take it to the floor. Naturally, Heenan finds his way into the cage (once again crushing the idea that the cage is designed to keep people like him out) and unbelievably, Andre actually stars climbing the cage to try and escape. What a fool! As if somebody his size with his broken down body would go anywhere near that! Actually, it probably would have been rather fun to have presented Andre as being afraid of heights, given his height and all. Of course, Hogan pulls him back down by the legs where Andre works in his usual “arms tied in the ropes” spot, which works particularly well since Hogan’s trying to get away from him. Heenan goes flying into the cage, taking his requisite big bump for the match (and a bigger bump than either guy actually in the match took), and then Hogan hotdogs it by clambering out over the top of the cage instead of just using the door like somebody sensible would have done. Not a lot of action until the hot finish, but a lot of brawling (as it probably should be), and you couldn’t reasonably ask for much more from these two in this situation.
Final Rating: **
Macho King Randy Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior
This is just two days after the Royal Rumble, where Savage cost Warrior the WWF title. Savage attempts to jump Warrior as he makes his entrance just as he did at the Rumble. Warrior catches him this time though, allowing them to brawl on the outside over a steel chair, before actually getting in the cage. From there, the opening of the match doesn’t actually contain all that much action. What they do is all good, but there’s a lot of spot-rest-spot-rest stuff. It’s actually just a pretty normal match that happens to be inside a cage, with Warrior getting bonked into the bars just a couple of times. Savage then drops the big elbow and Warrior kicks out, which just seems like a completely pointless thing to do in a cage match, and I’ve no idea why Earl Hebner ran in to count it then scooted off back out again. In fact, once he’s back on the floor, Sherri belts him one, and I can’t say as I blame her. With Savage then attempting to climb out of the cage, Warrior grabs him by the hair from the inside and starts yanking him back up and, with the referee still down, Sherri jumps into the cage and gets physical with Warrior just enough to cause him to lose his grip, sending Savage plummeting to victory and the cold, hard concrete floor beneath him. That of course leaves Warrior alone in the cage with Sherri, so he strips her down to her garters and then starts pounding… the ring ropes. It’s still two-on-one though and Warrior again falls for the sneak attack from behind, and Savage comes off the top of the cage with a double axe handle because he’s a complete nutter. Warrior catches Savage with a fist to the gut on the way down then beats the hell out of him and three referees, before the Nasty Boys run out to try and make the save. I’m not sure I get that; why did the Nasties all of a sudden develop a conscience? Maybe they saw Sherri in her undercrackers and wanted a piece. Either way, Warrior disposes of them then breaks free from an entire pack of agents and goes after Savage again until Sherri makes the save by nailing him… with Savage’s sceptre. That allows Savage to escape but for a second time, Warrior is left alone in the cage with Sherri, so he grabs her by the groin… and press slams her before attempting to rip the cage to pieces. Overall, this was pretty good though the bell-to-bell portion of the festivities felt a little off for whatever reason, and probably would have benefited from a hotter crowd. Coupled with the post-match war however, it built to a pretty intense climax, furthering the hostilities on the road to WMVII retirement.
Final Rating: ***½
Roddy Piper vs. Rick Rude
“Cut the music! What I’d like to have right now is for all you fat, out-of-shape, inner city sweat hogs, keep the noise down while I take my robe off and give you a good look at the body that’s gonna put an end to Roddy Piper. Hit the music!”
Man, ‘Ravishing’ Rick’s pre-match spiel was just the best, wasn’t it? This is basically the final blowoff for a mostly house show series of matches that had seen Rude essentially call Piper out of his Hollywood retirement, and wouldn’t you just know it? Rude attacks Piper as he tries to enter the cage, later allowing Piper to whip Rude with the leather belt from his kilt. That seems to be a standard spot in WWF cage matches; attack the guy wearing the bandanna, t-shirt or belt before the bell rings so you can choke or whip him with it in lieu of being able to brawl on the outside for a few minutes. Plus, it’s a cage match, so apparently you can get away with that even though here, the WWF has partially bucked it’s own trend by having a referee in the cage and declaring this match can end on a pinfall or a submission as well as by escaping the cage. But if there’s a referee in there, why don’t disqualifications count? I mean, if the cage is actually there to keep people out, you shouldn’t have to worry about interference or bringing foreign objects into the ring and thus, this should surely be a fair fight? Except it’s not. It’s like whenever I see a triple threat match or something similar, what happens if one guy gets disqualified or counted-out? Who wins then? There’s never any clarification to any of this, it just always gets ignored, which I can only presume is because I’m the only person who even cares about these gaping plot holes any more. Damn Vince Russo, ruining wrestling in the 90s by making trivial things like that not matter, with no concept of how you can use such intricate details to your advantage! The swine. Having whipped each other senseless without a DQ in sight, Piper and Rude keep going for the door and trying to climb out of the cage rather than going for pins, making the referee’s presence all the more pointless, even if you know he’ll be getting involved eventually. Rude makes a leap for the door, and in trying to drag him back into the ring, Piper inadvertently pulls Rude’s trunks down, exposing his rather well-toned buttocks. I mean, it could have been worse – it could have been Duggan, just think about that! Or better yet, don’t. Rude then drops Piper with the Rude Awakening neck breaker, prompting announcer Gorilla Monsoon at ringside to suggest it was “wasn’t well executed”. That’s precisely what people mean when they talk about what a horrible announcer Monsoon is, as he basically killed off the drama of Rude having just landed his big finishing move. Then again, Piper’s back on his feet about six seconds later, so he was actually right on the money. Take that, Monsoon-bashers! A double knock-out puts both guys down before they head up over the top of the cage together and hit the floor on the outside at precisely the same moment, much like the false finish in the famous Hulk Hogan-Paul Orndorff cage match from Saturday Night’s Main Event in January, 1987. There, the idea of drawing the cage match was used to provide Orndorff with further ammunition against Hogan as a back-up plan for WrestleMania III, had Andre the Giant’s back injury prevented him from working the main event. Here, it’s simply something of a plot device, used to get both guys on the outside so they can whale away at each other with a steel chair. Monsoon seems to instantly recognise that both guys will have to get back in the ring, presumably getting his precedence from the aforementioned Hogan-Orndorff cage match, but if you can have a draw in a regular match, why can’t you have a draw in a cage match? Not that I’m advocating anyone be stupid enough to book a draw in a cage match of course, but stranger things have happened, usually thanks to the pen of Vince Russo. Yeah, I know Russo had nothing to do with this match and I know I’ve brought his name up in this review once already, but taking pot shots at that jerk-off is always such a fun time, no? So with the match restarted, Rude comes off the top with a kneedrop that only gets two. Not the top rope mind you, but the top of the CAGE, and then he tops that with a crunching piledriver before going back up, but Piper somehow revives and starts shaking the cage. Rude missed his big chance by not going for the door there, and having stumbled atop the cage, Piper hooks Rude’s boot through the bars and hangs him upside down, leaving him free to head out the door. But that’s still not it, as Rude’s manager Bobby Heenan slams it clean against Piper’s head, Terry Gordy style. And that still only gets two because apparently Piper is John “Superman” Cena in a past life. So with all of this still not being enough to put him down, Heenan gives Rude a pair of brass knuckles, which Rude drops after an in-ring struggle, allowing teenage Golden Gloves boxing champion Piper the chance to take possession and knock Rude clean out with them, before jumping through the door to win. This was just absolutely awesome by WWF cage match standards, an ultra-dramatic, full-on, big-bump driven brawl with plenty of big moves and a clear narrative, jam packed with twists and turns. Tremendously gripping edge-of-the-seat action and storytelling from all involved. Great stuff.
Final Rating: ****¼
Hulk Hogan vs. The Big Bossman
This isn’t the famous Saturday Night’s Main Event match but rather a pre-WrestleMania V meeting from Madison Square Garden. In case you were unaware, the major matches you got on SNME were often taken from feuds that had already done the rounds on the house show circuit and thus, had little value left in them. The perception was you were getting big time matches on free TV, but in reality they were usually just matches the WWF felt had no more money left in them. The Hogan-Bossman cage match is just once such example, as they’d run that thing into the ground off the back of a monster run of regular matches between the two dating back to the summer of 1988. You’d think the cage stipulations would suit Bossman given his characterisation as a former prison guard making for a very easy hook, his naturally feeling more “at home” behind bars or whatever. He did have a run of cage matches with Nailz in late 1992, though none of those matches ever made tape, perhaps owing to Nailz’s firing on December 14th of that year after choking out Vince McMahon for real over what he felt was an undersized SummerSlam payoff. Anyway, Hogan and Bossman had some pretty terrific chemistry together, but it doesn’t really show here as they almost immediately fight up the cage and work in the super-duper-plex spot off the cage really early, then have a long lie down together. Somehow in the midst of that bump, Bossman managed to get in a really weedy-looking blade job. So with both back to their feet, Bossman chokes Hogan out with the chain from his handcuffs until Hogan makes the expected comeback, wrapping the chain around his hand punching away at Bossman’s head. He pinballs Bossman from one side of the cage to the other and now Bossman is bleeding buckets, which seems like it might have been hardway with the little cut earlier acting as a bullseye. Between that and the superplex off the top of the cage, Bossman was clearly one tough dude. And then from there, it’s go home time and they hit the same finish from the SNME match, as Hogan handcuffs Bossman to the top rope and clambers out of the cage, while Slick desperately tries to uncuff Bossman. Even the post-match is note-for-note the same, with Hogan destroying Slick, stealing his pimp hat and shoving the Bossman’s big stick down the front of his trunks. Er, his nightstick I mean. I felt like this lacked the drama and the crowd heat of the Saturday Nights’ Main Event match as they hit all the key spots as quickly as possible and did absolutely nothing in between, resulting in a rather boring encounter. You can sort of forgive them for not doing a lot though, because this was a matinee showing, and they actually gave a repeat performance later that night at the Boston Garden, once again with all the same spots.
Final Rating: *½
Summary: Once again, this ‘best of’ release gives you another fun, breezy hour of matches, though once more it’s all stuff the serious collector will have seen elsewhere. Hogan-Andre is available on both WrestleFest ’88 and Hulk Hogan Real American, Warrior-Savage comes from Mega Matches, Piper-Rude from both Supertape II and Wrestling Super Heroes, and Hogan-Bossman is on both Hulkamania 4 and The Best of Hulkamania. For those who live in a more modern era, you can also source Hogan-Andre and Warrior-Savage on The Greatest Cage Matches of All Time DVD, and the Piper-Rude match is available on both the Born to Controversy: The Roddy Piper Story and Legends of Wrestling: Roddy Piper and Terry Funk DVD collections. It’s certainly fun stuff, but the serious collector likely already has most of it tucked away on other releases.