March 14, 1987
Quite possibly my favorite all-time episode of Saturday Night's Main Event kicks off with Andre The Giant, Randy Savage, The Hart Foundation and others issuing threats and boasting what about they'll do to their respective opponents tonight.
It's a GREAT touch that I feel is seriously missing from the industry these days - although, to be fair, they did try to replicate it when SNME returned to NBC in 2006. Instead of using video packages and twenty-minute interviews, 8 seconds/wrestler works just as nicely.
And what was cool about this one is that all they tied all the comments together. For example, Hulk Hogan talked about having his eyes on Andre in tonight's battle royale. Then Bobby Heenan opened with "You'll have your eyes on him, but that's all you'll be able to do!"
After the opening theme ("Obsession" by Animotion) plays, featuring clips of most of tonight's competitors, Vince McMahon and Jesse "The Body" Ventura welcome us to the Joe Louis arena in Detroit to witness "one of the great World Wrestling Federation events."
Naturally, our hosts trade fashion insults, with McMahon claiming Ventura is wearing "Damien's sister" and The Body saying Vince's tuxedo "doubles Burgess Meredith's as The Penguin on Batman". I daresay that Mr. McMahon won that particular war of words.
Tonight's event is previewed, including the big battle royale, which will have Hogan and Andre potentially meeting face-to-face for the first time since The Giant turned heel earlier in the year. This was a VERY big deal at the time, folks!
It's time for our first match - George "The Animal" Steele vs. "Macho Man" Randy Savage, and the winner gets both the Intercontinental Title and Miss Elizabeth. Wait.... how is fighting for ownership of a woman remotely legal? Was this event in 1987 or 1887?
Elizabeth remains in the interview area for comments from both Savage and Steele, but the funniest is when she says to Okerlund "I just don't want to see anyone get hurt.", to which Okerlund condescendingly says "Well, that happens..."
Slave Girl Elizabeth is placed on some sort of lifeguard chair for the duration of the match, but mid-way through Steele "rescues her" and helps her off. Savage retaliates by slamming the 30-pound chair on top of Steele, which secures him a countout win. Ooooh yeah!
Post-match, Steele celebrates in the ring with some turbuckle stuffin's and clutching a poster of Miss Elizabeth that will keep him company tonight.
Before we go to commercial break, Hogan cuts one last mini-promo that consists of the following message while pumping a muscle flexer: "Andre, Orndorff. Andre, Hercules. Andre, Volkoff. Andre, Andre, Andreeeeeeeeee!"
Battle Royale participants include the aforementioned Hogan, Andre, Paul Orndorff, Hercules, Nikolai Volkoff, plus Hillbilly Jim, Outlaw Ron Bass, Sika, The Islanders, Leaping Lanny Poffo, "The Natural" Butch Reed, Billy Jack Haynes, Koko B. Ware, Blackjack Mulligan, "The" Demolition, The Honky Tonk Man and The Killer Bees.
The battle royale was, in many ways, classic WWF storytelling. Hogan and Andre were solely responsible for eliminating people, and it became quite clear that they were going to be the final two left.
To display his newfound vicious streak, Andre headbutts Poffo numerous times before tossing him out, to the point where he looks like he needs a blood transfusion. Andre's head is made out of metal spikes? I remember my friends making a joke the following week that Poffo's eventual LJN figure (which never came, even when he was The Genius) should have come complete with his head caved in.
By the time Poffo is stretchered out (wimp!), the ring is about half-full. Hogan has his hands full with Heenan family members Hercules and Orndorff, who Irish-whip Hulk right into Andre!
We have our big showdown, a preview of WrestleMania! They don't clash for very long, because Orndorff, Ware and others keep interfering. Once The Hulkster tosses out Mr. Wonderful, Andre headbutts Hogan from behind and tosses him out "like so much garbage," McMahon sneered during one of the numerous replays of the spot.
Still, the match isn't over. After the commercial break, Hillbilly, Koko, Demolition, Haynes and others work together to eliminate Andre. Now, it's anyone's match to win.
Anyone turned out to be Hercules, who was last in the ring with Haynes, setting up their big confrontation at WrestleMania III. And of course, Heenan assists his client. Still, strange choice for a winner.
From there, we move on to Jake "The Snake" Roberts vs. King Kong Bundy - a battle of bad guys, which you could always tell by McMahon saying "pick a winner, Jess!". Roberts was on his way to becoming a major babyface, but - much like his confrontation with Savage at an earlier SNME - this was clearly billed as rulebreaker vs. rulebreaker.
The Snake gets himself disqualified, and then delivers the DDT to the great Bundy. Which was a funny spot because Bundy's head slipped out of the clutch, but he still manage to brain himself on the mat head-first.
Roberts-Bundy, a match you would normally never see, not even at house shows, was one of the many reasons SNME was perfect.
After the commercial break, The Hart Foundation (Bret "Hitman" Hart and Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart) are with manager Jimmy Hart and former referee "Dangerous" Danny Davis, ready to defend their newly-won WWF Tag Team Championships for the first time.
Instead of The Killer Bees, The British Bulldogs (no relation) or The Islanders, they chose the random pairing of Tito Santana and Danny Spivey to challenge for the belts, whom, unless I miss my guess, never teamed up again following SNME.
Still, it was an interesting way to get The Harts over as champions without going the jobber route. Plus, Santana teamed with The British Bulldogs against The Harts and Davis at WM3, so at least it helped to build some of the backstory.
After the commercial break (there were, like, 50 of them during SNME broadcasts), Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat swore revenge on his WrestleMania III opponent Randy "Macho Man" Savage.
Lo and behold, who would show up during Steamboat's match against future advice columnist The Iron Sheik? That's right, Savage caused havoc at ringside. Ventura argues that Macho Man has every right to be at ringside, given Steamboat quasi-interfered in the earlier Savage-Steele match.
Savage eventually settles into the commentary booth, where he talks trash about his WMIII opponent. Between this one and the earlier match, it became clear Savage-Steamboat was being billed as the number two match at WrestleMania.
Another commercial break (and with 15 minutes or so left to go, they really packed in a lot of station breaks), Mean Gene Okerlund gets The Hulkster's thoughts on the battle royale, even though he didn't even place, like, seventh-last.
Hogan seems concerned about Andre (actually, he looks a little constipated in the screengrab to the right) but promises his legions of Hulkamaniacs that he will triumph over evil at WrestleMania III.
This was the equivalent of a go-home episode of Raw, in which they hammer home the main angles of the pay-per-view and ensure you need to watch what happens next. Or at least.... that's what should happen. Modern-day WWE, take note!
One more commercial break, and Mean Gene Okerlund is back with "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, who has been noticably absent the entire show. Alas, when SNME returns in May, Piper won't be part of the show because he's retiring at WrestleMania III following his match against "Adorable" Adrian Adonis.
Piper, humbled for the occasion, thanks Okerlund for the kind words and looks forward to retirement. To think, 22 years later he competed at WrestleMania again in the Piper/Snuka/Steamboat match vs. Chris Jericho. Wrestling retirements... am I right?
Anyways, a tribute video of Piper plays to the tune of Frank Sinatra's "My Way", showing some of the funnier and bigger moments of Piper's WWF career up until that point. We'll miss ya, Hot Rod!
Overall, this episode of SNME truly had something for everyone and serves as a great reminder for why the mid-to-late 1980's were truly the glory years for professional wrestling.