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Arnold Schwarzenegger, Part 1: The 1980s


“Conan the Barbarian” (1982)
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first cinematic endeavor was “Hercules in New York” (1969). It’s an atrociously bad flick. By the late 1970s, Arnie had improved as an actor and gave a surprisingly good performance in “Stay Hungry” (1976), playing a bodybuilder, which was appropriate casting and he held his own with the likes of Jeff Bridges and Sally Field. “Pumping Iron” was released in 1977 and chronicled Lou Ferrigno’s attempt to unseat Arnold Schwarzenegger in the “Mr. Olympia” competition. You wouldn’t think a documentary about buff men in speedos would make for a compelling watch, but the film was well received by both critics and general audiences. The 1980s then became the era of the action hero. Sylvester Stallone had the head star, establishing the characters Rocky Balboa and John Rambo. Arnold Schwarzenegger entered the mix when he was cast as the lead in “Conan the Barbarian.” Directed by John Milius, this film is a loose adaptation of stories penned by Robert E. Howard. Hard to imagine, but Oliver Stone was actually one of several writers who contributed to the screenplay. At a young age, Conan witnesses his parents murdered by Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones). Conan is then sold into slavery and becomes a pit-fighter when he reaches adulthood. For reasons unknown, his master sets him free and he becomes a renowned thief. After a series of adventures, Conan and his new companions are hired by King Osric (Max von Sydow) to rescue his daughter from Thulsa Doom, who is revealed to be a cult leader of sorts. Conan is more interesting in personal revenge and his haste leads to the death of his love interest, Valeria (Sandahl Bergman). Mako plays Akiro the Wizard, who assists Conan in act three. Conan finally confronts Doom and despite Doom’s best efforts to talk his way out of trouble, Conan decapitates him, avenging his parents. Before the end credits roll, we see an older Conan on a throne, implying that this was merely his origin story and greater adventures await, promising a long running series of films. Unfortunately, there was only one mediocre sequel in 1984 and a remake released in 2011, which I’ve never seen. Jason Momoa from “Game of Thrones” seems like a logically successor to Arnie in terms of physicality, but it’s hard to find someone with Arnie’s charisma, who can match his unique movie star persona. Fans love all of the carnage in “Conan the Barbarian,” but my favorite scene is when Conan is chased by a pack of wild dogs into a cavern and he discovers the remains of a king. Such an eerie scene that also hints at the character’s destiny.

“Conan the Destroyer” (1984)
Okay, so why is “Conan the Barbarian” enjoyable despite of its generic story and weak acting, while “Conan the Destroyer” is panned? Many complain about the PG rating. Yes, the violence was sorely missed, but the adventure still had potential. Sarah Douglas was a suitable antagonist as Queen Taramis. What annoyed me the most was the amount of irritating sidekicks Conan was saddled with. Mako being the acceptation. Also, this film does not deliver on the original film’s cliffhanger. I thought the sequel was suppose to tell the tale of how Conan became a king? But, when Princess Jehnna (Olivia d’Abo) suggests they marry and rule together, Conan balks at the idea and the movie ends with the same exact cliffhanger as the original. “Kull the Conqueror,” which was released in 1997 and starred Kevin Sorbo, was initially conceived as the third Conan film. “The Legend of Conan” is now in development, but taking Arnold Schwarzenegger’s age into consideration, you would have to imagine that Conan is already a king. One interesting tidbit about “Conan the Destroyer” was that Andre the Giant played Dagoth, the horned creature that Conan battled in the climax.

“The Terminator” (1984)
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature character. A cybernetic assassin from the year 2029. Writer / director James Cameron originally envisioned someone like Lance Henriksen for the T-800. An antagonist who moves stealthily, but after meeting with Arnie, James Cameron reworked the script. He knew how essential Arnie would be to the success of the film and even waited while Dino De Laurentiis forced Arnie to shoot “Conan the Destroyer.” Cameron used this time to work on the screenplays for “The Terminator,” “Rambo: First Blood, Part II,” and “Aliens.” This is an action / adventure / sci-fi flick, but also works as a date movie because of the romance. The story is really about Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn). Usually, I’ll find it hokey when characters in a movie fall in love so quickly, but it works here because these two characters were clearly “meant to be.” Reese traveled through time to protect the woman whose photograph had given him hope in the post-apocalyptic world. This leads to the conception of the future savior of the human race. So, by Skynet sending the T-800 back in time, it brings about its own downfall. By trying to prevent the birth of John Connor, Skynet inadvertently brings him into existence. But, of course, John Connor had already known that Kyle Reese was his father because his mother tells him. That’s all I’ll say about the time travel aspect of the story because the more you analyze it, the less sense it makes. The T-800 was the part Arnie was born to play. Such an iconic villain. He can’t be reasoned with. He can’t be bargained with. And he absolutely will not stop until you are dead!!! On some levels, I might be disappointed that he becomes the hero in the sequels. Not that I have anything against “T2.” Because of my age, I saw “T2” first as a kid and had a bunch of the action figures. Along with Arnie and James Cameron, the late Stan Winston is the man responsible for bringing the T-800 to life with his celebrated animatronics and makeup effects. “T2” was a real pioneer when it came to CGI, but the original was old school. Matte paintings, miniatures, and stop motion.

“I’ll be back” counter: 1

“Red Sonja” (1985)
Understand, I’ve only included this flick in the article because the backstory of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s involvement in the production was classic showbiz absurdity. “Red Sonja” was meant to be an offshoot of the “Conan the Barbarian” franchise, but despite of Dino De Laurentiis being the producer, this film did not have permission to use the “Conan” name. Instead, Arnie’s character was referred to as Kalidor. He was also meant to only appear in a cameo, but he was kept on set for nearly a month and the film was edited to make Kalidor essential to the plot. It was almost like the real life version of “Bowfinger,” with an actor being forced to star in film through nefarious means. Is it any wonder that Arnie never worked with Dino De Laurentiis again?

“Commando” (1985)
“Total Recall” (1990) took a lot of flack for being an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie with a high body count, probably because it was released at the height of his fame, but in “Commando,” Arnie can be credited with 94 deaths!!! Wow. This film was never one of my favorites. John Matrix sounds like such a phony name and musical score seems to be retread of “48 Hrs.” (1982). Also, I found Rae Dawn Chong’s character so unnecessary. Matrix needed to carjack her, but why the heck did she have to tag along for the rest of the movie? And Dan Hedaya’s Hispanic accent was pretty cartoony. Having said that, “Commando” might be the best of Arnie’s worst 1980s movies. If that makes sense. I’d rather watch this than “Raw Deal” or “Red Heat.” This film is also noteworthy as it was the inception of his “one liners.” It would soon become a staple of the genre for the hero to make a quip either before or after vanquishing a foe. Something that had already been done in the 007 films, but Arnie truly made it his own. The character Rainer Wolfcastle from “The Simpsons” is a very popular parody of Arnold Schwarzenegger and it was probably his performance in “Commando” which was most inspirational. Also, WWE Studios’ “The Marine” franchise continuously steals from “Commando,” rehashing the ex-soldier saving a loved one from kidnappers plot three times. To say that John Cena and The Miz are a couple poor substitutes for Arnold Schwarzenegger would be a vast understatement.

“I’ll be back” counter: 2

“Raw Deal” (1986)
Okay, so Arnold Schwarzenegger now goes undercover with the mafia? And no one is at all suspicious of his pretty thick Austrian accent? Also, his character’s wife is suffering from depression, so instead of supporting her, he fakes his death. How is her thinking her husband is dead not going to make her depression even worse? And all he does to fake his death is blow up his patrol car. If there’s not a body in the car, why would anyone assume that he was killed in the explosion? The reconciliation happens off camera, but apparently his wife was totally fine with his supposed death and surprise return. “Raw Deal” is a Steven Seagal movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Having said that, there is one supremely badass sequence with Arnie driving around a rock quarry in a leather jacket, shooting some anonymous henchmen while “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones blares.

*Arnie says “I’ll be RIGHT back,” this time, which doesn’t make my official tally.

“Predator” (1987)
“I ain’t got time to bleed.” This is the sort of movie that puts hair on your chest. The 1980s was the time for machismo. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Sonny Landham, and Jesse “The Body” Ventura. I won’t get into all of the behind the scenes drama with Jean-Claude Van Damme as the original actor inside of the Predator suit or the failures of the early dog-lizard-like design of the alien creature because the finished product shows no signs of the flawed production. Directed by John McTiernan, “Predator” succeeds as an action / adventure and a sci-fi / horror movie. It was definitely my favorite movie as a kid. Stan Winston was responsible for the iconic creature design. An extraterrestrial trophy hunter with dreadlocks and mandibles, portrayed by the over seven foot tall Kevin Peter Hall. Nowadays, all these CGI aliens from “Cloverfield,” “Cowboys & Aliens,” and “Super 8” seem to be the same slimy amphibian with claws. There’s nothing distinctive about their designs. The Predator’s vision is infrared, it can mimic the sounds made by humans, and can also be camouflaged by its surroundings. The Predator hunts by code. It shows good sportsmanship. It will not kill a human who is unarmed. But, if you are armed, it will skin you and rip your spinal cord out before polishing your skull up to keep as a prize. It stalks and kills every member of an elite military rescue team, who were trekking through a Central American jungle, building to a final showdown with Colonel Dutch Schaeffer. When Dutch lets out his primal roar, challenging the Predator, you know shit is about to go down. Never had Arnie been overmatched like this. He takes a beating, but when he turns the tide, he proves to not be a cold blooded killer. He shows mercy, only to have the Predator set off an explosive device. Arnie barely escapes with his life. At the end of “Commando,” he sports a few scratches. At the end of “Raw Deal,” he is totally unscathed. At the end of “Predator,” he looks to have been in several car wrecks. John McTiernan knew that for an action film to be successful, the hero needs to be put through the wringer. Something that he would carry over into the “Die Hard” franchise. “Predator 2” was released in 1990 and starred Danny Glover. It’s not as good as the original, but not as bad as some people gripe. Nobody seems to like that the film was set in Los Angeles, but the sequel needed to do something different. If it too was set in the jungle, it would’ve been viewed as lazy and unoriginal. Arnold Schwarzenegger has yet to appear in any of the follow up films. Allegedly, he was to have made a cameo at the end of “Alien vs. Predator” (2004), but him being elected as governor of California put the kibosh on that. Robert Rodriguez developed “Predators” (2009) with Arnie in mind to reprise his role as Dutch, but the lead ended up being a new character played by Adrien Brody. Arnold Schwarzenegger > Adrien Brody.

“The Running Man” (1987)
Long before “Battle Royale” (2000) or “The Hunger Games” (2012), there was “The Running Man.” Based on a novel written by Stephen King under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, this film is both quintessentially 1980s and somehow still ahead of its time by presenting a dystopian future where the media, namely reality TV, has brainwashed the masses. The only difference between “The Running Man” and modern reality TV is that no one ever gets slain on “Survivor” or “Big Brother.” The stalkers on “The Running Man” all have pro wrestling inspired gimmicks. Professor Subzero, Buzzsaw, Dynamo, Fireball, and Captain Freedom, who was played by Jesse “The Body” Ventura. This was the second pairing of Jesse and Arnie, two future governors. Richard Dawson, the then host of “Family Feud,” plays Damon Killian. Killian was an excellent antagonist and one of the few adversaries in an Arnold Schwarzenegger film to have a comeback for “I’ll be back.” Killian replies, “Only in a rerun.” Wow. He dared to talk back to Arnie. The love interest was played by Maria Conchita Alonso. This was the first movie where Arnie gets the girl. Sandahl Bergman died in “Conan the Barbarian.” He rejected Olivia d’Abo in “Conan the Destroyer.” His relationship with Rae Dawn Chong in “Commando” was strictly plutonic and I don’t count the psychological torment he caused his wife in “Raw Deal” as a happy ending. WWE Studios took a break from rehashing “Commando” in 2007, releasing “The Condemned,” starring”Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The concept was similar to “The Running Man.” Convicts fighting to the death to win their freedom. The difference being the jungle setting and that this death sport was streamed live on the internet. Since the concept is so fertile, I’m actually surprised there’s yet to be a sequel or a remake of “The Running Man.” Maybe the popularity of “The Hunger Games” will facility this?

“I’ll be back” counter: 3

“Red Heat” (1988)
Despite of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hilarious Russian accent, this movie might be the lamest buddy cop flick of the 1980s. Personally, I’m more disappointed with “Tango & Cash” (1989) because Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell are two of my favorite actors, but that movie sucked. I’m less surprised about the poor quality of this pairing of Arnie and Jim Belushi. It’s just unfathomable to me that this uninspired film was directed by Walter Hill. The man who made “The Warriors” (1979). This film is just not a par with all the classic buddy cop films like “Lethal Weapon” (1987), “48 Hrs.” (1982), or even “Running Scared” (1986). There’s nothing special about the story. Arnie plays a fish out of water cop, hunting down the drug kingpin who murdered his partner. The few times this movie made me chuckle, it was Arnie and not Jim Belushi. Since I didn’t see this film as a kid, there’s no nostalgia for me. Arnie didn’t even say “I’ll be back” in Russian. A missed opportunity. In my opinion, this film is as forgettable as “Red Sonja.”

“Twins” (1988)
Critics are usually pretty hard on Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’ll agree that he’s more of a larger than life personality than an actor, but in “Twins” he gives a genuine performance. He’s not playing a tough guy who spouts one liners. As Julius Benedict, he is sheltered, naïve, but always compassionate and selfless. Danny DeVito as Vincent Benedict was the perfect foil for Arnie with his smart mouth and wiseguy antics. These two played off each other so well in both the comedic and dramatic moments. Kelly Preston provided the eye candy. Not to objectify leading ladies, but she was pretty hot back then. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito as brothers? I believe it was Leonard Maltin who said that “Twins” was a box office smash because of its poster, but beyond the inspired casting, this film succeeds on many levels. Director Ivan Reitman at his best. There’s plenty of laughs, but the climax was also quite suspenseful. Then, the film closes on a touching moment with the brothers being reunited with their mother. Me and my sister would quote this film a lot as kids. Arnie worked with Ivan Reitman two more times, as many times as he has worked with James Cameron. Evidently, there’s now a sequel in the works with Eddie Murphy being introduced as the long lost Benedict brother, but let’s wait and see if this project actually comes to fruition.

“I’ll be back” counter: 4


Legends of Wrestling: Hulk Hogan

Hulk Hogan

Long before he rose to prominence, “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan arrived in the WWWF (World Wide Wrestling Federation) in 1979. He dubbed himself “The Hulk” after the Marvel Comics character – without permission – and was given the surname “Hogan” by Vincent J. McMahon. Hogan was managed by “Classy” Freddy Blassie and competed in several matches against his greatest foe, “The Eighth Wonder of the World” Andre the Giant. Hogan was unceremoniously released from the promotion in 1981 when he was cast in the film “Rocky III” because Vincent J. McMahon did not want any of his wrestlers to double as actors. Hogan then moved on to Verne Gagne’s AWA (American Wrestling Association) where “Hulkamania” was born thanks in large to his appearance in “Rocky III.” Gagne – not unlike Vincent J. McMahon – was a wrestling traditionalist and reluctant to showcase Hogan as his World Heavyweight Champion. Hogan defeated reigning AWA Champion, Nick Bockwinkel, who was managed by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, on at least two occasions, but the decisions were reversed both times due to the behind the scenes financial disputes between Hogan and Gagne.

History was made when Vincent K. McMahon purchased his father’s promotion, which was now known as the WWF (World Wrestling Federation). Vince Jr. saw the potential which The Hulkster possessed and resigned him in late 1983. It did not take long for Hogan to reach the zenith as he defeated The Iron Sheik for the WWF Championship on January 23, 1984. Over the next several years, the WWF went from a mere regional promotion to a national promotion to a global phenomenon. This expansion was known as “Rock ‘n’ Wrestling” and Hulk Hogan was its figurehead.

1985 was especially a landmark year for both Hulk Hogan and the WWF. First, Hogan defended his championship against “Rowdy” Roddy Piper at MTV’s War to Settle the Score in a match that ended in a No Contest and setup the main event of WrestleMania. Hogan teamed with “Rocky III” costar Mr. T in a match against Roddy Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. Boxing legend Muhammed Ali was the guest enforcer. Both these events were held at Madison Square Garden. Hogan and Mr. T were victorious at WrestleMania, but the rivalry between The Hulkster and The Hot Rod continued. They squared off one more time at The Wrestling Classic and Hogan retained his title by DQ.

Bobby “The Brain” Heenan had also made the jump from the AWA to the WWF and sought to bring an end to Hulkamania. Almost every member of “The Heenan Family” would challenge Hogan for the his title at some point. King Kong Bundy lost to Hogan in the main event of WrestleMania II in Los Angeles, a Steel Cage Match for the WWF Championship, but Heenan scored a coup when he convinced Andre the Giant, who had become a friend and mentor to Hulk Hogan in recent years, to join The Heenan Family and turn his back on The Hulkster and his fans. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant for the WWF Championship in the main event of WrestleMania III was the absolute biggest match in pro wrestling history. Over ninety three thousand (alleged) fans set an indoor attendance record in Pontiac, Michigan’s Silverdome to witness this epic clash of titans. Hogan was the underdog for the first time ever, but he pulled off the upset win with the body slam heard around the world and his signature atomic leg-drop. The torched had officially been passed.

Later in 1987, on Saturday Night’s Main Event, Hulk Hogan came to the aid of “Macho Man” Randy Savage at the behest of Savage’s valet, the lovely Miss Elizabeth. This new alliance was dubbed “The Mega Powers.” In 1988, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase offered to buy the WWF Championship from Hulk Hogan, who flatly refused. DiBiase then recruited Andre the Giant to win the title on his behalf, which he did on The Main Event. Andre was not permitted to relinquish the belt to DiBiase and the title was declared vacant. Hogan and Andre squared off again at WrestleMania IV in Trump Plaza, but this rematch is less heralded because it ended in a double DQ. Randy Savage defeated Ted DiBiase that same night for the WWF Championship. The Mega Powers bested the duo of Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant at the inaugural SummerSlam. Jesse “The Body” Ventura was the guest referee in that match.

The Mega Powers eventually exploded as a result of Hulk Hogan’s grandstanding and Randy Savage’s manic paranoia. Hulk won the WWF Championship for a second time by defeating The Macho Man in the main event of WrestleMania V, also held in Trump Plaza. Hogan then spent the latter part of 1989 feuding with Zeus, his co-star from the film, “No Holds Barred.” At the 1990 Royal Rumble, The Hulkster crossed paths with The Ultimate Warrior, reigning WWF Intercontinental Champion. The main event was soon announced for WrestleMania VI in Toronto. Hulk Hogan vs. The Warrior, title for title. The ultimate challenge was unique with two fan favorites battling each other. The Skydome jinx established itself and The Warrior won the title, but Hogan was gracious in defeat. Hulk then filmed “Suburban Commando” while recovering from the injuries he suffered at the hands of Earthquake.

The Hulkster returned and won his second consecutive Royal Rumble in 1991, then he won his unprecedented third WWF Championship at WrestleMania VII in Los Angeles from Sgt. Slaughter, who was an Iraqi sympathizer during the Gulf War. Hogan lost the title to The Undertaker at Survivor Series 1991, then was announced to compete against “Nature Boy” Ric Flair at WrestleMania VIII in Indianapolis, but his opponent ended up being Sid Justice instead. The Hulkster won that match via DQ with some help from The Ultimate Warrior, then apparently retired from the WWF. He made his return one year later and competed twice at WrestleMania IX in Las Vegas. First, in the WWF Tag Team Championship match, then he defeated Yokozuna for the WWF Championship in an impromptu match. Hulk Hogan’s new record of five title reigns would last for eight years.

Shockingly, “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan made the jump to Ted Turner’s WCW (World Championship Wrestling) in 1994 and won the WCW Championship from Ric Flair at Bash at the Beach. “Macho Man” Randy Savage also made the jump and he and Hogan reformed their partnership. A Steel Cage Match between Hogan and Big Van Vader at Bash at the Beach 1995 was showcased on an episode of the hit TV series, Baywatch. WCW fans were nowhere near as receptive of Hulkamania as WWF fans were because of The Hulkster’s tired catchphrases and the corny matches he competed in, such as a Monster Truck Battle with The Giant (a/k/a The Big Show) at Halloween Havoc 1995. Hulk decided to shake the wrestling world to its foundation by joining The Outsiders (Scott Hall and Kevin Nash) at Bash at Beach 1996 to found the nWo (New World Order). His signature colors changed from red and yellow to black and white. The nWo dominated WCW for the next two years and “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, as he was now dubbed, did whatever was necessary to hang onto his title, aligning with Eric Bischoff, the executive producer of the company. The nWo even hosted their own pay-per-view in 1997 called Souled Out. Two major loses suffered by Hollywood Hogan during this time period were to Sting at Starcade 1997 and to Goldberg on Monday Nitro in the summer of 1998.

After a cage match between Hollywood Hogan and Randy Savage at Uncensored 1998, the nWo splintered into two different factions, nWo Hollywood and The Wolfpack. The nWo reunited in early 1999 to knock Goldberg of his pedicel, but the fans had begun to lose interest in this renegade stable. In the summer of that year, Hulkamania walked back into our lives as Hulk Hogan again donned the red and yellow for a six man tag team match on Nitro. This “second coming” was short lived however since WCW fell into financial turmoil in 2000, during the “New Blood” angle where Hogan was relegated to a feud with Billy Kidman of all people, then Hogan was publicly fired by writer Vince Russo at Bash at Beach 2000. WCW was bought out by Vince McMahon in 2001.

The three founding members of the nWo returned to the WWF at No Way Out 2002, but despite of their heels tactics, “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan was rooted for in his loss to The Rock at WrestleMania XVIII in Toronto. Hogan was booted from the nWo after the match, but Hulkamania was still running wild. Hulk won the WWF Championship for a sixth, and thus far final time, from Triple H at Backlash 2002. The name of the title was then changed to the WWE Championship since the company was now World Wrestling Entertainment. Hulk was again defeated by The Undertaker at Judgment Day 2002, then after a brief reign as WWE Tag Team Champions with Edge, The Hulkster was put out of action by Brock Lesnar. Hulk Hogan returned in 2003 and defeated Mr. McMahon in a Street Fight at WrestleMania XIX in Seattle. He has not competed at a WrestleMania since, but did appear at WrestleMania XXI in Los Angeles, the night after his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame, Class of 2005. The WWE Universe was clamoring for one more match. Hogan answered the call, defeating Shawn Michaels as SummerSlam 2005 in a “Legend vs. Icon” match. Hulk made just a few sporadic appearances in the WWE over the next several years.

Once again, “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan made waves by joining TNA (Total Non-Stop Action) Wrestling in 2010, not as an active wrestler, but as an executive, though he did compete in a tag team match on Impact to help bring attention to this small promotion. At Bound for Glory 2010, Hulk and Eric Bischoff formed a group called “Immortal,” which had Jeff Hardy as its figurehead. They tried to recreate the fervor of the nWo, but lost a great deal of momentum due to Jeff Hardy’s personal “demons.” Hogan stepped back into the ring at Bound for Glory 2011 to square off with “The Icon” Sting. Sting was victorious, but more importantly, helped Hulk see the light and Hulk left Immortal immediately following their match. After that, Hogan was a strict General Manager in TNA, being tormented for most of 2013 by “Aces & Eights,” a rogue gang led by Bully Ray (a/k/a Bubba Ray Dudley).

Hulkamania will undoubtedly live forever and the red and yellow is going to be running wild in the WWE once again as The Hulkster is returning as the host of WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans.

Classic WWF Pay-Per-Views: 1990

WWF 1988 - 1994

January 21, 1990
Orlando, Florida

No better way to kick off the year than with the Royal Rumble, setting the stage for WrestleMania. Tony Schiavone calls his second and final WWF Pay-Per-View. Though I always prefer Gorilla Monsoon, after years of Michael Cole, I guess Schiavone wasn’t so bad in retrospect. Jesse “The Body” Ventura was awesome as always, sporting some fashionable Mickey Mouse ears.

In the opener, The Bushwackers (Luke & Butch) defeated The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacques & Raymond). Though it wasn’t mentioned, this contest was a rematch from WrestleMania V. We’ll see a lot of The Bushwackers at Royal Rumbles over the years because the entire roster is needed to fill up the card, but this is the last we’ll see of The Rougeaus until Jacques reemerges as The Mountie a year later. Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake then faced The Genius. The Genius was the brother of “Macho King” Randy Savage and had formerly competed as “Leaping” Lanny Poffo. Now he was managing “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig. Mr. Perfect had recently assisted The Genius in picking up a count out victory over Hulk Hogan on The Main Event. Mr. Perfect also made the save in this match when Beefcake had The Genius locked in his patented sleeper hold and battered Beefcake with a steel chair. Mr. Perfect was now being pushed as one of the top heels. Randy Savage’s brother vs. Hulk Hogan’s best friend was like a battle of the sidekicks. Nepotism running wild.

Brother Love had as guests on his interview segment, Sensational “Queen” Sherri and Sweet Sapphire, the respective managers of “Macho King” Randy Savage and “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. Brother Love and Sherri berated Sapphire until both Savage and Rhodes interjected themselves and the interview became a melee. This set the stage for an inter-gender tag team match at WrestleMania VI.

“Rugged” Ronnie Garvin then defeated Greg “The Hammer” Valentine in a Submission Match. Garvin used a maneuver which was referred to as a reverse figure-four leg lock, but was actually what would come to be known as the Sharpshooter (or Scorpion Death Lock for you WCW fans). “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan also defeated The Big Boss Man via disqualification. Duggan was now 3&0 at Royal Rumble events.

Part of the excitement of the Royal Rumble Match is anticipating who the next entrant is, but this year it was revealed that “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase was the #1 entrant and Mr. Perfect was #30. I don’t mind knowing who #1 is, but I’d prefer that #30 be a surprise. DiBiase beginning the match was almost karmic retribution for him allegedly purchasing #30 the prior year. DiBiase eliminated Koko B. Ware (#2) and Marty Jannetty (#3) before being confronted by Jake “The Snake” Roberts (#4). The WWF had been teasing a major feud between these two for months. Randy Savage came in at #5 and sided with DiBiase against Roberts. And since when are these two friends? I understand that they are both heels, but what about all the bad blood form 1988? “Rowdy” Roddy Piper entered at #6 and teamed with Roberts against DiBiase and Savage. The ring continued to fill up and Savage kept saving DiBiase, eventually eliminating Roberts. Dusty Rhodes then entered at #10 and eliminated Savage. Bad News Brown (#9) was eliminated by Piper, so he pulled Piper over the top rope, which is an illegal elimination, but the officials (including Shane McMahon) allowed it. Piper and Bad News brawled back to the locker room, setting up their match at WrestleMania VI.

Andre the Giant entered at #11. “The Eighth Wonder of the World” was now one half of the WWF Tag Team Champions with Haku (#14). This duo was known as “The Colossal Connection.” They feuded with Demolition (Ax & Smash) now that The Brain Busters (Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard) were no longer in the WWF. Ax (#13) and Smash (#15) double teamed Andre just like the year before, but this time they were able to eliminate the giant with a double clothesline. Earthquake (#19) competed in his first Royal Rumble and it took half a dozen superstars to eliminate the big man. The career of Andre was winding down, so Earthquake was becoming the new resident monster heel in the WWF.

The Ultimate Warrior, reigning Intercontinental Champion, entered at #21. The Warrior had been in the 1988 Royal Rumble, but he was now a much bigger star. Warrior was the one finally able to eliminated Ted DiBiase, who’d lasted nearly forty-five minutes. Tito Santana (#23) tried desperately to eliminate his former partner, Rick “The Model” Martel (#22), but was unsuccessful. Will Tito ever get his payback? Hulk Hogan, the reigning WWF Champion, entered at #25. Shawn Michaels came in at #26 and was immediately tossed out by Warrior. Michaels wasn’t an icon yet. Hogan and Warrior cleaned house and were left in the ring together, the most enduring image of this Pay-Per-View. It was the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. They knocked each other down with a double clothesline, only wetting our appetite for WrestleMania VI. The ring began to fill up again and after “Ravishing” Rick Rude (#28) entered, Hulk “accidentally” eliminated The Warrior. Déjà vu? Warrior then reentered the ring and attacked everyone but The Hulkster.

Mr. Perfect came in at #30, the perfect number, and the final four were Hogan, Perfect, Rude, and Hercules (#29). Hercules was eliminated quickly and Hogan was then double teamed until a miscommunication where Mr. Perfect eliminated Rick Rude. Mr. Perfect hit Hogan with the Perfect-Plex, his finishing maneuver, but The Hulkster “Hulked Up” and threw Mr. Perfect over the top turnbuckle for the win.

Apparently, Mr. Perfect had initially been booked to win this Royal Rumble, but Hulk Hogan decided it would better for him to win and used his stroke to make it happen. He is the only reigning WWF Champion to ever win a Royal Rumble. Since the title shot at WrestleMania stipulation wasn’t added for another three years, it didn’t have too much of a negative effect on Mr. Perfect’s career and it was yet another feather in the cap for Hulk Hogan. All the key matches at WrestleMania had been set up. Hogan vs. Warrior, Roberts vs. DiBiase, Piper vs. Bad News, Savage vs. Dusty, Perfect vs. Beefcake, and the tag team title match, so this Pay-Per-View did it’s job quite well. The term “Road to WrestleMania” has become such a lousy cliché, but it was apt in 1990.

April 1, 1990
Toronto, Ontario

The first international WrestleMania. Skydome (now lamely known as Rogers Centre) was the location of the “Ultimate Challenge,” where “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan put his WWF Championship on the line against The Ultimate Warrior’s Intercontinental Championship in a title-for-title match. It doesn’t get much bigger than that. Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura were together on commentary for the last time and the “mini ring” entrance carts from WrestleMania III were back.

This WrestleMania was also the swansong for Andre the Giant. Andre and Haku, The Colossal Connection, lost the WWF Tag Team Championships to Demolition (Ax & Smash). This was the third time in which Demolition captured the titles. A record at the time and they are still the longest reigning tag team champions in the history of the promotion. The health of Andre was clearly on the decline as he never actually tagged into the match. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan severely scolded Andre following the match and after three years of taking orders, Andre smacked The Brain across the face, turning face and walking out on The Heenan Family. It was appropriate that Andre would leave as a good guy and receive a standing ovation from the fans. Andre would make sporadic appearances before he passed away in 1993 and the WWF Hall of Fame was christened with his induction that same year.

“Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig had a perfect record going into WrestleMania VI, meaning that he had not been pinned or made to submit on national television, though I’m aware he was pinned by The Ultimate Warrior in Madison Square Garden just a couple weeks before WrestleMania VI. Mr. Perfect’s first high profile loss occurred at this Pay-Per-View and was at the hands of Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. I must take umbrage with this booking. Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but Mr. Perfect had all the potential in the world. I don’t care if Beefcake was Hulk Hogan’s BFF, Mr. Perfect was clearly the superstar to push. This was also the Pay-Per-View where “Rowdy” Roddy Piper infamously painted half of his body black to psych out his opponent, Bad News Brown. The match itself ended in a double count out. Piper and Bad News brawled back to the locker room just as they did at the Royal Rumble, so nothing was settled.

“Macho King” Randy Savage and Sensational “Queen” Sherri took on “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes and Sweet Sapphire in the first ever inter-gender tag team match. Dusty claimed to have a secret weapon, a crown jewel, who turned out to be the lovely Miss Elizabeth, who’d not been seen since SummerSlam ‘89. Savage and Sherri were furious that Elizabeth was on hand. Dusty and Sapphire were victorious with some help from Elizabeth and all three celebrated. It’s very disappointing to view this match on a DVD or a Blu-ray because Dusty’s hip entrance music is tampered with. “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase defended his Million Dollar Championship for the first time. His challenger was Jake “The Snake” Roberts. DiBiase won the match by count out, but received a taste of his own medicine when Roberts shoved a $100 bill down his throat.

Rhythm & Blues (The Honky Tonk Man & Greg “The Hammer” Valentine) performed a concert, which was crashed by The Bushwackers (Luke & Butch). The Hammer was now an Elvis Presley impersonator just like Honky. Rhythm & Blues were accompanied by Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart and The Honkettes. Their chauffer was none other than Diamond Dallas Page, a future WCW Champion.

The main event of WrestleMania VI was one of the biggest ever. Two titles were on the line and it was face vs. face. Seeing Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior at that age was just as good as seeing Superman vs. Batman. I always liked The Warrior, but I was a die hard Hulkamaniac and rooting for The Hulkster all the way. The last time we’d seen the irresistible force meeting the immovable object was at WrestleMania III. Back in 1987, Andre the Giant was the immovable object and Hulk Hogan was the irresistible force. In 1990, Hulk was the immovable object and Warrior was the irresistible force. Holy cow. Over two decades later, this is still an exciting match to watch.

The test of strength between the two champions is such an iconic image. Jesse Ventura called the match down the middle, showing no bitterness towards Hogan. “Ravishing” Rick Rude spent most of 1989 preparing Warrior for this level of competition and it showed. Warrior was able to hang with Hogan, who dictated the pace of the match as the more experienced grappler should. The match went back and forth, both champions doing their no-selling power up routines until Warrior hit his big slash. Hogan kicked out at three and a half and Warrior was the new WWF Champion. This is such a vivid memory from my childhood. I honestly believed that Hulk Hogan was unbeatable, but he did the classy thing and was the first to congratulate the new champion.

Yes, Hulk Hogan also shared in the adulation when Randy Savage won the title two years prior, but the internet “smart” fans have blown out of proportion how devious he was in spoiling the crowning moments of others. The urban legend is that The Ultimate Warrior had no clue that Hulk was going to present him with the WWF Championship, but if you look at the tape, referee Earl Hebner hands Warrior BOTH championships and Warrior accepts the Intercontinental Championship while shoving away the WWF Championship. The cameras cut away and the commentators ignored it, so it seems that the only person who didn’t know (or just forgot) was Earl Hebner, but somehow Hulk is accused of going into business for himself when the footage does not support that at all.

Jesse Ventura, Hulk Hogan’s biggest detractor, even praised him for how he went out as a former champion and begrudgingly admitted that “Hulkamania” would live forever. This was Jesse’s final WWF Pay-Per-View for over nine years, so it was fitting that he finally endorsed Hogan on the way out. As far as The Ultimate Warrior goes, he will always be the man who beat The Hulkster in is prime, clean, and for the title. That is a WrestleMania moment. The Warrior is also the first competitor to hold both the WWF Championship and Intercontinental Championship at the same time. WWF President Jack Tunney, who signed the title-for-title match, then stripped Warrior of the IC title because no one could meet the contractual obligations of both championships. So, then why’d you book the match? WWF Chairman Vince McMahon had an “out” for every storyline because plot-holes could easily be attributed to Jack Tunney’s incompetence.

August 27, 1990
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

This summer classic is the first Pay-Per-View without Jesse “The Body” Ventura. The Hot Rod, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper assumed the position of color commentator and Vince McMahon himself handled the play-by-play instead of Gorilla Monsoon. Roddy wasn’t exactly a heel, but he was still quite harsh and unsympathetic throughout the show.

The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) opened the show and were upset by Power & Glory (Hercules & Paul Roma). Michaels had a legitimate knee injury and was unable to compete, so Jannetty was left in a glorified Handicap Match. What was more shocking than Hercules & Roma winning, was that the Philadelphia fans were cheering them on. No love for the pretty boy Rockers. “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig was the new Intercontinental Champion and newest member of The Heenan Family. What a major coup for Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Mr. Perfect had defeated Tito Santana in the finals of a tournament after The Ultimate Warrior relinquished the title. Mr. Perfect then traded up from The Genius to The Brain, the perfect manager. Originally, Perfect was to lose the title to Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake here at SummerSlam. I won’t rag on Beefcake for being Hulk Hogan’s BFF again because this was the second time that he was booked to win the IC title, but missed out because of an injury. This injury was a parasailing accident which kept him out of action for over two years. Kerry Von Erich, a star in WCCW, had recently joined the WWF and was billed as “The Texas Tornado.” Von Erich replaced Beefcake as #1 Contender and beat Mr. Perfect for the title. A bad start to what had the potential to be a big night for The Heenan Family.

The Big Boss Man was now a face, turning before WrestleMania VI, and was pulling double duty at this Pay-Per-View. First, he was the guest referee in a match between Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Bad News Brown. Bad News had Harlem sewer rats in his corner to combat Damien. Boss Man awarded the match to Roberts via DQ and this was the last WWF Pay-Per-View for Bad News Brown. Demolition defended the WWF Tag Team Championships against The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hit Man” Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) in a rematch from the first SummerSlam in 1988. Demolition was now a trio, appose to a tag team, with Crush joining Ax and Smash. It was Smash and Crush defending the titles in a 2/3 Falls Match. Ax came down to the ring and did the old tag team partner switch, but The Legion of Doom (Animal & Hawk) were now in the WWF and arrived to tipped the scales in favor of The Harts, who won tag team gold for the second time their careers. This tag team attraction was definitely the match of the night, beginning a tradition of Bret Hart competing in the show stealing match almost every year at SummerSlam.

Sgt. Slaughter also arrived in the WWF. He had left before the first WrestleMania and been floundering in the AWA. He was back to award Brother Love with a medal for outstanding achievement in something unimportant. The whole point was that Sgt. Slaughter, who’d been initiated into the G.I. Joes back in the 1980s, was now a heel. He would even become an Iraqi sympathizer during the first Gulf War, one of the most (if not the most) controversial angles in WWF history.

A running storyline throughout the Pay-Per-View was that Sapphire was missing, much to the anguish of “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, who was facing “Macho King” Randy Savage. Dusty couldn’t even concentrate on the match, then “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase arrived with Sapphire to reveal that she had been lured away with luxurious gifts, proving that everybody has a price for The Million Dollar Man. Dusty was left heartbroken and easily defeated by The Macho King. Dusty then chased after DiBiase and Sapphire, but it was too late as DiBiase’s limousine pulled away. Dusty later vowed that it was time to get nasty. This was the last time in which he wore the trademark polka-dots at a WWF Pay-Per-View. Longtime fans always saw the polka-dots as an insult to Dusty Rhodes and Vince McMahon’s way of castigating the former NWA/WCW booker, so it was probably a relief to many to see the polka-dots go.

“The Immortal” Hulk Hogan returned to action after months away filming “Suburban Commando.” The Hulkster had been written off TV with an attack by Earthquake. It was a big push for Earthquake to be given credit for taking out Hogan. Earthquake had Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart and Dino Bravo in his corner. The Big Boss Man of all people was in Hulk’s corner, taking the place of Tugboat. Just like the “Stone Cold” Steve Austin / Triple H “Two Man Power Trip” of 2001, I just didn’t buy that Hogan and Boss Man were buddies after years of animosity. Hogan won the match by count out, but Earthquake was still booked strong, enduring being slammed on top of a table and being beaten and bruised by a steel chair. Roddy Piper referred to this as a “hollow victory” for Hogan. All the current WWE commentators shill for John Cena, but back in the glory days, the color commentators would berate The Hulkster. More proof that John Cena is NOT the modern equivalent of Hulk Hogan, but rather a pale imitation.

The Ultimate Warrior became the first ever WWF Champion to defend the title at a SummerSlam. His challenger was “Ravishing” Rick Rude, who had defeated Warrior for the Intercontinental Championship back at WrestleMania V, so he was a legitimate threat to The Warrior’s reign as WWF Champion. The Intercontinental Championship should be used as a steppingstone to the WWF Championship, so mid-card level feuds can be reignited down the road in the main event. It’s so rare for the heel to make a valid point, but in this instance, no one could deny that Rick Rude had the capability of beating The Warrior because he’d done it before. The same happened five years later when “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith challenged Bret “Hit Man” Hart for the WWF Championship at an In Your House. Everybody remembered that Davey Boy had defeated The Hit Man at Wembley Stadium for the Intercontinental Championship back at SummerSlam 1992 and wondered if history would repeat itself.

Not only was this the first WWF Championship match in SummerSlam history, it was a Steel Cage Match. Nowadays, with the Hell in a Cell and Elimination Chambers, an old fashioned steel cage seems quaint, but at the time, there was no match more dreaded. Rude had cut his hair short, perhaps a symbolic gesture to show that he was taking this match as the most imperative of his career. Roddy Piper was just as judgmental of The Warrior as he was of Hulk Hogan in calling the contest. The match was solid, but not quite as good as their match from SummerSlam ‘89. Warrior retained the title, so The Heenan Family had lost two important title matches on the same show. Rick Rude left the WWF soon after and joined WCW, so I always associate his short haircut with his WCW tenure.

And in an odd way, this was already the last hurrah for The Ultimate Warrior as the top dog in the WWF because Hulk Hogan would begin easing his way back into the main event picture now that he was done filming his movie.

November 22, 1990
Hartford, Connecticut

This is my favorite Survivor Series because of the “Grand Finale Match of Survival.” All of the survivors from earlier in the Pay-Per-View returned to compete in the main event. Just like the epic WrestleMania IV tournament, I love when wrestling is booked like a legitimate sporting event with brackets, rounds, and playoffs. Gorilla Monsoon and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper called all the action. And, of course, this was the debut of the greatest superstar of all time… The Gobbly Gooker!!!

Just messing around… It’s the debut of The Undertaker!!!

“The Warriors” (captained by none other than reigning WWF Champion, The Ultimate Warrior) defeated “The Perfect Team” (captained by “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig) in the opening contest. Between Demolition, The Legion of Doom, and The Warrior, there were six face painters in this match. Possibly a record. Demolition had reunited with Mr. Fuji, but Ax soon left the WWF and Demolition lost most of their momentum without him. After a double DQ, Mr. Perfect was left alone to face both The Warrior and “The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich, the Intercontinental Champion. Mr. Perfect eliminated The Tornado with some help from the exposed turnbuckle, but that same tactic failed against The Warrior and Warrior became the sole survivor for the third year in a row.

“The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes’ “Dream Team” took on “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase’s “Million Dollar Team,” which had a mystery partner. The mystery partner would go on to become “The Phenom” of the World Wrestling Federation, The Undertaker. Brother Love was the original manager of “The Dead Man” and not Paul Bearer. The first superstar to oppose The Undertaker was Bret “Hit Man” Hart and no member of The Dream Team did well against ‘Taker. Koko B. Ware had the distinction of receiving the first ever Tombstone Piledriver. The Honky Tonk Man was also on The Million Dollar Team in what was his final WWF Pay-Per-View for nearly seven years. Undertaker was eventually counted out and the match came down to Ted DiBiase and Bret Hart. They both showed off great technical prowess until DiBiase countered Hart for the victory.

“The Vipers” (captained by Jake “The Snake” Roberts) were utterly decimated by “The Visionaries” (captained by Rick “The Model” Martel). Martel had blinded Roberts with his trademark cologne, called “Arrogance,” but Roberts wasn’t able to gain any form of retribution. Roddy Piper did call Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty The “Plymouth” Rockers, which I thought was cool. The Visionaries became the first team in Survivor Series history to survive intact, not losing a single member throughout the course of the match. The heel team was now stacked for the grand finale, while The Ultimate Warrior was all alone on the face team.

“The Hulkamaniacs” (captained by “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan) defeated “The Natural Disasters” (captained by Earthquake). Earthquake and Tugboat were eliminated by way of a double count out, so there was still no closure to the Hogan / Earthquake rivalry. Hogan survived after hitting The Barbarian with the big boot / atomic leg drop combo. The Hulkster would now join The Ultimate Warrior on the face team. Hulk also took a swing at Bobby “The Brain” Heenan for old times’ sake. The Warrior had also battered The Brain earlier, so it was a tough night for Bobby.

Surprisingly, “Macho King” Randy Savage did not compete at this Pay-Per-View. He was instead interviewed by “Mean” Gene Okerlund and demanded a title shot from The Ultimate Warrior. I can only surmise that Savage was injured because his match against Dusty Rhodes at SummerSlam was pretty short and he was now sitting out this major event.

“Mean” Gene Okerlund would also have the honor of introducing The Gobbly Gooker, portrayed by Hector Guerrero. The mystery of the giant egg was hyped even more than Ted DiBiase’s mystery tag partner. What a let down this was. You could hear children jeering this lame turkey. Wow. It’s probably a toss up between the Gooker and The Shockmaster from WCW for the most shoddy debut in pro wrestling history.

The last qualifying match for the grand finale was “The Mercenaries” (captained by Sgt. Slaughter) vs. “The Alliance” (captained by Nikolai Volkoff). Nikolai was now a face because the Cold War had come to an end, but the fans in America still didn’t like him. This might have been the sloppiest match in WWF Pay-Per-View history. None of the competitors seemed to know which corner to stand in and all the eliminations seemed rushed. Tito Santana was the sole survivor after Sgt. Slaughter was disqualified. Tito didn’t have that many PPV victories, so good for him even if the match sucked. It was almost like watching a modern WWE Diva tag team match. Botchamania.

Arriba!!! Tito Santana made it to the “Grand Finale Match of Survival,” teaming with Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior to battle “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and “The Visionaries.” 3 vs. 5. Even though Tito had virtually no time to recuperate from his match, he started this match while Hulk and Warrior lingered on the apron. You gotta be kidding me? Tito finally makes it to the main event and he’s used as a human shield? Despite the valiant effort from Tito, the match came down to Hulk and Warrior against The Million Dollar Man. This was the third year in a row that Hulk and DiBiase were on opposing teams at Survivor Series. Warrior scored the winning pinfall and the two “uber” baby faces celebrated, even holding the ropes open for each other in a show of mutual respect.

There was never another grand finale match at a Survivor Series, so I must be in the minority who thought it was a great idea. Shucks. Every year I have my fingers crossed that the Survivor Series will return to its original format with all traditional tag team elimination matches, but I guess I’ll have to settle for just one or two.

Classic WWF Pay-Per-Views: 1989

WWF 1988 - 1994

January 15, 1989
Houston, Texas

Let’s get ready to rumble. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan won the first Royal Rumble in 1988, but that was not a Pay-Per-View. It was a special which aired on the USA Network and featured only twenty superstars. Every Royal Rumble since (with the exception of 2011) has featured thirty superstars. It was like a teaser for the WWF’s next big Pay-Per-View extravaganza. The Royal Rumble joined WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and the Survivor Series as the “Classic Four,” also known as the “Big Four.” Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura were again on commentary. Three other matches and a posedown accompanied the Royal Rumble Match on the card.

In the opener, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan & The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hit Man” Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) defeated Dino Bravo & The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacques & Raymond) in a 2/3 Falls Match. Dino Bravo, who I believe holds the world record for missing elbow drops, was originally billed as “Canada’s Strongest Man,” then he was promoted to the “World’s Strongest Man.” I actually think it would have been better for his gimmick to always be qualified as a Canadian strongman. “World’s Strongest Man” sounds so generic. My sincere apologies to Mark Henry. The Rougeaus had very catchy entrance music. Annoyingly catchy enough to garner heat from the fans. Speaking of the fans, they would chant USA even when Bret Hart was in the ring. Jim Duggan used his trusty 2×4 piece of lumber to pick up the victory. Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura debated whether or not to was fair for the face team to use an illegal foreign object. It was always great to hear these two argue. Nowadays, Michael Cole makes me want to watch WWE with the volume turned all the way down.

Rockin’ Robin defended the WWF Women’s Championship against Judy Martin, but I never had much interest in women’s wrestling. Even with the multi-talented Sensational Sherri on color commentary, this is a match to skim through. The Ultimate Warrior did not defend the Intercontinental Championship against “Ravishing” Rick Rude, instead they competed in a “Super Posedown.” Perhaps it was a way to have The Warrior be a part of the show, but not actually have him wrestle? Or was it just an awesome way to build up to their match at WrestleMania V? Either way, it made for a real entertaining segment. “Smart” fans must despise this baby oil / pumping iron exhibition, but it was so ludicrous that it was epic. “Mean” Gene Okerlund was the emcee and the fans were the judges. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan pleaded with the people to remain unbiased, but that was obviously never going to happen. Rick Rude was arguably the crown jewel of The Heenan Family, but the fans were decidedly rooting for The Warrior. Rude gave The Warrior a cheap-shot just as Warrior was about to be declared the winner. Keep an eye out for Nick Bockwinkel, a former AWA Champion, as one of the officials who try to break up the melee.

Between matches, grapplers would be shown backstage selecting their numbers for the Royal Rumble from a tumbler. Some seemed to be happy with their numbers, others not so much. “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase did not appear happy with the number he drew, so he consulted with Slick as to which numbers he drew for The Twin Towers (The Big Boss Man & Akeem). Foreshadowing?

Harley Race competed in his final WWF Pay-Per-View. He had been the “King of the WWF” back when the King of the Ring winner would have to defend his crown on occasion as if it were a championship belt. Haku, who like Race was a member of The Heenan Family, assumed the thrown when Race was out of action with an injury. So, this was a rare heel vs. heel match. Bobby Heenan was at ringside and supported both superstars, so that he could easily side with the winner and discard the loser. Haku won with a devastating super-kick. Almost every time I listen to shoot interview given by a wrestler of this generation, Haku’s name is mentioned as one of the toughest men in all of wrestling. Haku may not have the gravitas of a Harley Race, but he was someone you definitely didn’t want to mess with.

The undercard was serviceable, but everyone orders this Pay-Per-View to watch thirty superstars in an hour long, every man for himself, rumble. Ax of Demolition was the #1 entrant, so it didn’t take a real road scholar to figure out who #2 would be. Smash of Demolition. It was the first time in WWF history that the Tag Team Champions wrestled each other. Andre the Giant, the king of the Battle Royals and odds-on-favorite in this match, entered at #3. “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig entered at #4 and lasted almost a half hour, longer than anyone else in this Royal Rumble. Andre did all of the eliminating early on, tossing out both Smash and “Rugged” Ronnie Garvin (#5). Jake “The Snake” Roberts entered at #7 and was quickly eliminated by Andre. Roberts returned to the ring with Damien, his pet python, and Andre jumped out of the ring in a state of panic. I suppose that the bookers didn’t want anyone to eliminate Andre, so they just had him eliminate himself. Some of the notable entrants to follow this were Shawn Michaels (#9), The Honky Tonk Man (#11), Tito Santana (#12), Bad News Brown (#13), Marty Jannetty (#14), and “Macho Man” Randy Savage (#15). Savage was the reigning WWF Champion, but the guaranteed title shot at WrestleMania stipulation wasn’t added until the 1993 Royal Rumble. These first few rumbles were for the bragging rights only. The Brain Busters (Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard) entered back to back at #’s 16 & 17 respectively. So, that’s now two tag teams who drew consecutive numbers. What are the odds?

“The Immortal” Hulk Hogan entered at #18 and eliminated ten superstars, a record which would stand for twelve years, being broken by Kane in 2001. One of the ten was The Warlord (#21), who lasted just over one second, a dubious record which would last twenty whole years before being broken by Santino Marella in 2009. The Hulkster then “accidentally” eliminated Randy Savage. The Macho Man was left fuming and it looked like The Mega Powers were just about ready to explode. No managers were allowed at ringside for the Royal Rumble, but Miss Elizabeth came down to the ring and played peacemaker. Hogan and Savage shook hands and Hogan was left alone to face both The Big Boss Man (#22) and Akeem (#23). Gorilla Monsoon then theorized that The Million Dollar Man had to be responsible for the Big Boss Man and Akeem having consecutive numbers. Funny how no one thought it was suspicious that Demolition and The Brain Busters drew consecutive numbers? The Twin Towers double teamed and shockingly eliminated The Hulkster. The beauty of the Royal Rumble is its unpredictability. If you were going to bet on the 1989 Royal Rumble, your money probably would’ve been on either Hulk Hogan or Andre the Giant. Now, they were both out of the running.

As time ticked away, it was quite apparent that Ted DiBiase had traded up for a higher number. Classic heel tactics. He was the biggest star left and thusly the new favorite. The only real opposition he’d have to contend with was Big John Studd (#27). Studd was a former member of The Heenan Family, who’d been absent from the WWF for almost three years. He was now a face and pummeled Akeem as soon as he entered the match. Ted DiBiase finally entered at #30 and his bodyguard Virgil stayed at ringside despite the rules. Jesse Ventura justified his presence by pointing out that it is managers and not bodyguards who are in fact banned from ringside. The final four were DiBiase, Studd, Akeem, and Rick Martel (#29). Akeem eliminated Martel, then assisted DiBiase against Studd. Gorilla Monsoon’s paranoia was now vindicated as it was obvious that Slickster had taken a payoff from DiBiase earlier in Pay-Per-View. Studd fought back, eliminating Akeem first, then DiBiase. Virgil entered the ring after the bell had already rung and feebly attempted to attack Studd. Too little, too late. Studd also tossed Virgil over the top rope as if was one of the participates in the Royal Rumble.

Besides guest refereeing duties at WrestleMania V, this was the swansong for Big John Studd. He never won a title, so this was his highest accolade. He retired from the WWF later in 1989, passed away in 1995, and was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004. Just like WrestleMania IV, The Million Dollar Man tried to spend money instead of striving for his success. It’s a shame that Ted DiBiase never became WWF Champion, but the purpose of his character was to demonstrate that money can’t buy everything. It was a morality tale. Nowadays, I watch The Miz and I struggle to understand what purpose he serves? DiBiase wouldn’t be without a title for long though as he created the “Million Dollar Championship” before WrestleMania V and declared himself the reigning champion. Some people argue that this title doesn’t count because it wasn’t “real.” Well, none of the titles are “real.” DiBiase didn’t beat anyone for it, but whom did Triple H defeat to become World Heavyweight Champion in 2002? Nobody. See my point?

April 2, 1989
Atlantic City, New Jersey

This is it. The moment we’ve all been waiting for. The Mega Powers EXPLODE!!! The turning point occurred at The Main Event. It was “Macho Man” Randy Savage & “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan vs. The Twin Towers (The Big Boss Man & Akeem). Savage was thrown out of the ring and he landed on top of the lovely Miss Elizabeth. Hogan brought Elizabeth to the trainer’s room and abandoned Savage in a glorified Handicap Match. Elizabeth assured Hogan that she was well enough for him to return to the ring, but it was too late. Savage was now fed up with Hogan’s grandstanding and slapped The Hulkster across the face. The roles were then reversed as Savage left the ringside area and Hogan had to fight both Big Boss Man and Akeem. Hogan still managed to win the match and confronted Savage as Elizabeth looked on helplessly. Savage accused Hogan of having “jealous eyes” regarding both Elizabeth and the WWF Championship. Hogan protested his innocence, but Savage wasn’t convinced and struck Hogan with the title belt. Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake (Hogan’s real life best friend) came to his aid, but Savage beat him down too. Later in the show, Hogan was on a rampage, crossing paths with future legends Bret “Hit Man” Hart and Shawn Michaels.

What was clever about Macho Man’s heel turn was that he was perfectly justified from his own point of view. Hulk was always hogging the spotlight and spent too much time around Elizabeth. Not the ideal tag team partner. Hogan on the other hand was able to defend his actions. He didn’t intentionally leave Savage alone in the ring at the Survivor Series, he was handcuffed outside the ring. Hogan also claimed that eliminating Savage from the Royal Rumble was unintentional and even if it was intentional, the match was meant to be every man for himself. And was Hogan just suppose to leave Elizabeth in a heap outside the ring and not seek medical assistance for her? A glory hog such as Hulk Hogan and a manically paranoid individual like Randy Savage cannot coexist for long without having a confrontation.

There were other matches on the card besides the highly anticipated main event. Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura were on commentary. Shawn Michaels, who is now known as “Mr. WrestleMania,” made his WrestleMania debut as The Rockers took on The Big Boss Man and Akeem. Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty were innovative high-flyers and very popular amongst kids my age. I actually preferred Marty to Shawn back then and got to chat with him for a couple minutes during the intermission of an independent show in 2012. Since Shawn Michaels became such an icon, it is forgotten that Marty Jannetty was a talented in-ring performer. Also in tag team action, The Brain Busters (Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard) took on Strikeforce (Rick Martel & Tito Santana). Martel turned heel by walking out on Santana during the match. I met Tito at an autograph signing in 2008 and we discussed this moment. The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hit Man” Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) defeated The Honky Tonk Man and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. Honky and Valentine were both part of Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart’s stable, but not yet known as “Rhythm & Blues.”

Andre the Giant faced Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Big John Studd was the special guest referee. Studd had been Andre’s WrestleMania I opponent in the $15,000 “Body Slam Challenge.” Usually, a guest referee is either celebrity or a heel who is out to screw over the babyface. When the guest referee is also a babyface, it probably means he will turn heel at the conclusion of the match. In this case, there was no heel turn and the odds were stacked against Andre. During the contest, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and Virgil snuck down to ringside and attempted to steal Jake’s python, Damien. Andre attacked Studd and this awkward match ended in a DQ, setting up a showdown between Ted DiBiase and Jake Roberts at the next year’s WrestleMania.

The Ultimate Warrior had his first proper Pay-Per-View match, defending the coveted Intercontinental Championship against “Ravishing” Rick Rude. The Warrior showed signs of improvement, but still wasn’t at that level where he needed to be to contend with the likes of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage as he soon would. Rick Rude won the title with aid of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. This was a big moment because Rude was the first member of The Heenan Family to actually win a championship (Not counting Andre the Giant’s cup of coffee with the WWF Championship).

“Rowdy” Roddy Piper, also known as “The Hot Rod,” returned to WWF Pay-Per-View for the first time since WrestleMania III. He had left professional wrestling to star in such films as John Carpenter’s “They Live.” Roddy was back to host his controversial interview segment, “Piper’s Pit.” His guest was 1980’s talk show sleaze-ball and chain smoker, Morton Downey Jr.. Brother Love attempted to hijack the show and even wore kilt to mock Roddy, but he was unsuccessful and Roddy gleefully doused Mr. Downey with a fire extinguisher. The boss was back.

On to the main event, which had a year long build. There was a year long build to The Rock vs. John Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII, but those two basically traded insults on social media sites in what was tantamount to cyber bullying, whereas Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage was an ongoing saga. Not unlike a soap opera. Wrestling purists reject the notion that these two superstars were fighting more over Miss Elizabeth than the WWF Championship. But which would you rather have? A title belt or the love of beautiful woman? Therein lays the drama. Savage was returning to Trump Plaza, the location of his WrestleMania IV triumph, but now he was the villain. Hogan was main-eventing his fourth WrestleMania. Miss Elizabeth was at ringside and tried to remain neutral. Jesse Ventura criticized her for this while Gorilla Monsoon naturally defended her. Referee Earl Hebner ejected Elizabeth when she became nuisance. Savage bloodied Hogan, but Hogan “Hulked Up” after being nailed with Savage’s patented flying elbow-drop. The Hulkster hit the big boot and atomic leg-drop combo, winning the WWF Championship for the second time in his storied career, tying the then record with the legendary Bruno Sammartino.

The Mega Powers wouldn’t reunite until both Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage made the jump to WCW in 1994. Of course, they couldn’t legally be called by that name since it was a different promotion. I recall WCW billed them as “The Monster Maniacs.” I kept waiting for a reunion to happen in the WWF, but it wasn’t meant to be. I am aware that there were real life ego clashes between the two, but I try not to harp on that. They are legends who made the WWF into a global phenomenon and were solely responsible for getting me hooked on professional wrestling as a kid.

Miss Elizabeth was also a part of The Mega Powers. Unlike the WWE Divas of today, she came across as more elegant. A natural beauty as appose to a fitness model. Miss Elizabeth wasn’t a “Diva,” she was the “First Lady of the World Wrestling Federation.”

August 28, 1989
East Rutherford, New Jersey

Sure, 1989 may have been the summer of “Batman” and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” but did either of those films effect the main event of SummerSlam? No, that honor goes to “No Holds Barred.” Zeus, the human wrecking machine, stepped out of the cinemas (I guess he had a magic ticket or something) to combat his co-star, Hulk Hogan. SummerSlam ‘89 gets a bad wrap because of Zeus’ involvement in the main event, but the Pay-Per-View as a whole is still worth watching. Tony Schiavone was the play-by-play man instead of Gorilla Monsoon. What? Schiavone may have spent a year in the WWF and Jesse “The Body” Ventura did make the jump to WCW in 1992, but Schiavone will always be a WCW guy in the eyes of the fans and Jesse will always be a WWF guy. Also, the early part of this show had a real WCW invasion type vibe to it.

The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hit Man” Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) took on The Brain Busters (Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard) in the opener. Arn and Tully were two of “The Four Horsemen” back in the NWA/WCW before they made the jump in 1988 and were now proud members of The Heenan Family and reigning WWF Tag Team Champions, but this was a non-title match. I’m not sure why since The Brain Busters won the match. I could envision an angle where The Harts win the match, only to then be informed by an official that because of some contractual loophole, the titles stay with Arn and Tully, but if the champions were booked to win anyway, why not just make this a title match? “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, the booker in NWA/WCW, also made the jump to the WWF. He faced the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time, The Honky Tonk Man. Dusty had competed in the WWF in the late 1970s and Honky would have a brief stint in WCW in the mid 1990s, but just like the opener, this match had that WWF vs. WCW vibe, which was only enhanced by Tony Schiavone and Jesse Ventura calling the action just as they would on WCW Worldwide. The first hour of this Pay-Per-View feels more like an invasion than the actual Invasion Pay-Per-View from 2001.

“Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig competed against The Red Rooster. I find this match a tad humorous because the crowd support was seemingly with Mr. Perfect. He was a heel that you just had to respect while The Rooster was a pitiful gimmick. The story goes that both Curt Hennig and Terry Taylor were signed by the WWF at the same time the Mr. Perfect and The Red Rooster gimmicks were being cultivated. Thank the heavens that the right guy was pushed. Can you imagine some alternate timeline where Curt Hennig clucked his was to the ring? The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) teamed with Tito Santana to take on The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacques & Raymond) and Rick Martel in the first six man tag team match of the evening. Martel was a heel, but not yet “The Model.”

The Ultimate Warrior finally had a true main event caliber Pay-Per-View performance by winning back the prestigious Intercontinental Championship from “Ravishing” Rick Rude in a rematch from WrestleMania V. I have always considered this match to be a hidden gem and was pleased that it was included on the “History of the Intercontinental Championship” DVD in 2008. Rick Rude may have carried The Warrior to a point, but it still takes two to have a good match. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper inexplicably came down to ringside and pulled up his kilt, mooning and distracting Rude, allowing The Warrior to pick up the win. The Heenan Family lost the Intercontinental Championship, but still had the WWF Tag Team Championships.

Andre the Giant teamed with The Twin Towers (The Big Boss Man & Akeem) to take on “Hacksaw” King Duggan and Demolition (Ax & Smash) in the second six man tag team match of the evening. That’s a lot of beef in the ring and Jim Duggan was the new King of the WWF, having defeated Haku. He even had a tiny crown for his 2×4. Also, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka appeared at his first WWF Pay-Per-View extravaganza since WrestleMania I, in a losing effort against “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase.

“The Immortal” Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage were now on opposing teams in the main event. Savage teamed with Zeus, who was actually an actor playing the part of a wrestler. Sensational Sherri, Savage’s new manager, was in their corner. Hogan teamed with his bionic blood brother, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. The lovely Miss Elizabeth was in the corner of Hogan and Beefcake. I never thought that Hogan needed a manager, especially at this stage of his career, but Elizabeth was on hand to fuel the fire that is Macho Madness. It wasn’t much of a match and Zeus’ no-selling came across a little hokey. Also, Hogan got physical with Sensational Sherri. I thought he was our hero? Even if provoked by a one as tough as Sherri, The Hulkster shouldn’t put his hands on a woman. Though the crowd loved it. Sherri’s loaded purse was used several times and it became a tad repetitive. Hogan and Beefcake (who would not be known as “The Mega Maniacs” until WrestleMania IX) were the victors and Sherri got a haircut after the match, but I think it was clearly hair extensions which were snipped.

The Macho Man was now 0&2 against his former Mega Power tag team partner, but his athleticism and charisma, along with adding Sensational Sherri to his entourage helped to keep his star from fading, especially when they were crowned the king and queen. Hulk Hogan had the WWF Championship and snuck his real life best friend, Brutus Beefcake into the main event scene. Hogan was also able to have Miss Elizabeth in his corner for one night only, reminding Savage who the biggest star was and who had the most stroke. It was an entertaining main event, but The Ultimate Warrior vs. Rick Rude was surely the match of night. Hogan and Savage would soon have some competition from The Warrior for that top spot in the WWF.

November 23, 1989
Rosemont, Illinois

The Thanksgiving night tradition continued and the heck with Tony Schiavone because Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Pilgrim” Ventura were back together to call the action. All the longtime fans already know how this Pay-Per-View operates. An entire card of tag team elimination matches. What more could you be thankful for? Just ask the WWF superstars because they opened the show by telling the world what they were thankful for. The Genius was thankful for being so intelligent. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan was thankful for all the members of The Heenan family. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper was thankful that he wasn’t “Ravishing” Rick Rude, and “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan was thankful for all his Hulkamaniacs.

“The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes’ “Dream Team” defeated The Big Boss Man’s “Enforcers” to open the Pay-Per-View. This was the first year in which all the teams had catchy designated names. Bad News Brown walked out on The Enforcers after a slight miscommunication. The same routine from the year before. Rick “The Model” Martel eliminated Tito Santana. Tito was still looking for some retribution for the backstabbing at WrestleMania V. Dusty Rhodes and Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake were survivors, but The Big Boss Man battered them both after the match with his trademark nightstick. They were serving hard time.

Next, it was “Macho King” Randy Savage and “The King’s Court” against “The 4x4s,” captained by “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. Savage had defeated Duggan for the crown and was arguably the finest king the WWF ever had. “The Kingdom of the Madness.” Bret “Hit Man” Hart was on a separate team from Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. Perhaps it was management’s way of testing whether or not The Hit Man was ready for a singles push? When Bret tagged into the match, The Macho King appeared reluctant to lock-up and the crowd was buzzing. Apparently, Bret’s potential was obvious to the fans and superstars alike. The King’s Court suffered only one elimination, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. Savage survived along with Dino Bravo and Earthquake after Duggan was counted out. This was the Pay-Per-View debut of Earthquake.

Hulk Hogan, the reigning WWF Champion, and his “Hulkamaniacs” squared off with “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and his “Million Dollar Team” in what was essentially the main event, even if it wasn’t the last match. DiBiase was borrowing Zeus from The Macho King for the night, but the human wrecking machine was disqualified for using a blatant choke hold on Hogan. Then, both The Powers of Pain (The Warlord & The Barbarian) were disqualified for illegally double teaming Hogan. Jesse Ventura was absolutely irate because he felt the referee was showing favoritism towards Hogan. DiBiase (with some help from Virgil) eliminated Jake “The Snake” Roberts, but once it came down to Hogan and DiBiase, Hulkamania ran wild and The Hulkster became the sole survivor. Ventura gave Hogan absolutely no credit because the referee disqualified most of the opposition.

Hulk Hogan wasn’t in the last match so that he and Brutus Beefcake could participate in a segment where they were viciously attacked by Randy Savage and Zeus in the locker room, hyping the “No Holds Barred” Pay-Per-View, which was the movie coupled with a Steel Cage Match with these same four superstars.

“Roddy’s Rowdies” vs. “The Rude Brood” was an instance of brawlers facing technical wrestlers. The Bushwackers (Luke & Butch) were comic relief. Their main offense was biting. Roddy Piper and Rick Rude, the respective team captains, were eliminated by way of a double count out. “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig then became the sole survivor by defeating Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. Mr. Perfect was the only heel that I rooted for as a kid. It’s kind of a New York thing to cheer for the bad guy and his entrance music was epic. Mr. Perfect was another wrestler whose death genuinely bummed me out as if he was someone I’d known personally.

The show closed with “The Ultimate Warriors” vs. “The Heenan Family.” Bobby “The Brain” Heenan actually competed because Tully Blanchard failed a drug test. Andre the Giant was clotheslined out of the ring by The Ultimate Warrior and counted out in the opening seconds of the contest, so The Heenan Family was behind the eight-ball early on. It was essentially Arn Anderson and Haku against The Warrior, Jim Neidhart, and The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) in a glorified Handicap Match. Bobby didn’t tag in too often, but did manage to eliminate Marty Jannetty. Arn Anderson was impressive in his last match before returning to WCW, carrying the ball for his team. The Warrior and Bobby Heenan were the final two competitors and Warrior made short work of The Brain, becoming the sole survivor.

Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Mr. Perfect, Dino Bravo, & The Ultimate Warrior were all survivors for the second year in a row (if anyone’s keeping track). Having The Hulkster compete early in the Pay-Per-View not only set up “No Holds Barred,” but allowed The Warrior to participate in his first Pay-Per-View main event. The WWF Champion and the Intercontinental Champion were now on a collision course, even if they didn’t know it yet.

“No Holds Barred: The Match” aired December 27, 1989 and had just the one match, so I won’t bother doing a retrospective. It was paired with the unsuccessful movie of the same name. Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake defeated “Macho King” Randy Savage and Zeus in a Steel Cage Match. Sensational Sherri was at ringside, but Miss Elizabeth was not. Savage was now 0&3 against his former Mega Power tag team partner and they would not interaction with each other again too often until they joined WCW. The cage match was also the last appearance of Zeus before also popping up in WCW under the name “Z-Gangsta.”

Classic WWF Pay-Per-Views: 1988

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