In 1987, a spaceship which had departed from parts unknown arrived in the World Wrestling Federation. From this ship emerged… THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR!!! He first appeared on the grand stage as an entrant into the 1988 Royal Rumble Match, but he was not yet an icon and was eliminated quickly. He then defeated Hercules Hernandez, of The Heenan Family, at WrestleMania IV in Atlantic City.
The Ultimate Warrior first made his mark when Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake was injured by “The Outlaw” Ron Bass. Beefcake was the #1 Contender for The Honky Tonk Man’s Intercontinental Championship, so Honky was now without an opponent for SummerSlam 1988. The Warrior substituted and defeated The Honky Tonk Man in a record time to win the prestigious Intercontinental Championship. The Warrior was also the sole survivor in the opening match of Survivor Series 1988.
The Ultimate Warrior competed against “Ravishing” Rick Rude in a super pose-down at Royal Rumble 1989, which ended in a no contest after Rude gave The Warrior a cheap-shot. The Ravishing One then defeated The Warrior at WrestleMania V for his title with assistance from Rick Rude’s manager, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Their rematch as SummerSlam 1989 was one of the greatest matches in the career of The Warrior. With assistance from “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, The Warrior regained his title. The Warrior was a sole survivor once again, this time in the main event of Survivor Series 1989.
At Royal Rumble 1990, The Ultimate Warrior crossed paths with “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan, the WWF Champion. The Hulkster inadvertently eliminated The Warrior and set the stage for the “ultimate challenge” at WrestleMania VI in Toronto. Champion vs. champion. Title for title. The Warrior made history by becoming the first superstar since the birth of Hulkamania to score a legit victory over Hulk Hogan, also becoming the first superstar to hold both the Intercontinental and WWF Championships. The Warrior was then forced to relinquish the Intercontinental Championship by Jack Tunney, president of the WWF, so he could focus on the defending the WWF World Title.
The Ultimate Warrior successfully defended the gold at SummerSlam 1990 against his long time nemesis, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, in a Steel Cage Match. The Warrior was a sole survivor yet again at Survivor Series 1990, earing his way into the grand finale match of survival, where he and Hulk Hogan were victorious. The Warrior refused to defend his title against “Macho King” Randy Savage, likely because The Macho King had his manager, Sensational “Queen” Sherri, issue the challenge on his behalf, so Savage interfered in The Warrior’s match with Sgt. Slaughter at Royal Rumble 1991, costing Warrior the WWF Championship.
The Ultimate Warrior and “Macho King” Randy Savage, two of the top stars of their era, faced off in a Career Ending Match at WrestleMania VII in Los Angeles. The Warrior was victorious in this show stealing match and (temporarily) retired Randy Savage. The Warrior then resumed his feud with Sgt. Slaughter, teaming with Hulk Hogan in a Handicap Match at SummerSlam 1991 against The Triangle of Terror: Sgt. Slaughter, Col. Mustapha, & Gen. Adnan. Sid Justice was the special guest referee. Hogan and The Warrior were the winners, but The Warrior disappeared from the WWF immediately following the match. Warrior had, just prior to SummerSlam, been double crossed by Jake “The Snake” Roberts, who aligned with The Undertaker and Paul Bearer, but there was no resolution to this rivalry.
The Ultimate Warrior made his surprise return to the WWF at WrestleMania VIII in Indianapolis, saving Hulk Hogan from Sid Justice and Papa Shango. The Warrior then challenged “Macho Man” Randy Savage, the reigning WWF Champion, at SummerSlam 1992. “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig interfered in the match and The Warrior won via count out, but titles cannot change hands on a count out. Warrior and Savage formed “The Ultimate Maniacs” alliance and were set to face Ric Flair and Razor Ramon in a tag team match at Survivor Series 1992, but Warrior again vanished from WWF programming. He was replaced by Mr. Perfect in the match.
This time, The Ultimate Warrior remained gone for over three years before returning at WrestleMania XII in Anaheim to decimate Hunter Hearst Helmsley. He was set to face Goldust for the Intercontinental Championship at In Your House a month later, but Goldust had injured his knee earlier in the night and intentionally got himself counted out to retain his title. After defeating Jerry “The King” Lawler at King of the Ring 1996, The Warrior was to team up with Shawn Michaels and Ahmed Johnson against Camp Cornette: Vader, Owen Hart, & The British Bulldog at the next In Your House, but abruptly left the WWF for a third time and was replaced by Sycho Sid.
The Ultimate Warrior resurfaced two years later in World Championship Wrestling, confronting “Hollywod” Hulk Hogan on Monday Nitro. The Warrior participated in a #1 Contenders’ War Games Match at Fall Brawl 1998, then was defeated by Hulk Hogan at Halloween Havoc 1998. Members of the New World Order interfered in the match and The Warrior’s brief tenure in WCW came to and end soon after.
The Ultimate Warrior came out of retirement in 2008 for a match against Orlando Jordan in Nu-Wrestling Evolution. The Warrior won and relinquished the NWE Championship all on the same night. The Warrior will soon be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on the eve of WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans.
*Here are scenarios where these grapplers could have become champion.
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper
The Hot Rod could have won the title at The Wrestling Classic in November of 1985, then lost it back to Hulk Hogan in the main event of WrestleMania II. How that changes history: King Kong Bundy’s push is aborted and there is no boxing match with Mr. T at WrestleMania II. No great loss. Roddy Piper competed in WCW in the late 1990s, but even when the WCW Championship changed hands like a hot potato, The Hot Rod still could not capture the gold.
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
The Dragon revolutionized pro wrestling with his Intercontinental Championship Match against “Macho Man” Randy Savage at WrestleMania III, but asked to take the summer of 1987 off to tend to his family. That is not the way to get in Vince McMahon’s good graces. Had he put the needs of the promotion ahead of his personal life, he might have challenged Hulk Hogan for his spot as top baby-face circa WrestleMania IV just as The Ultimate Warrior did at WrestleMania VI. How that changes history: Ricky Steamboat would have been booked as one of the elite along side Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. There might not have been room at the top for The Ultimate Warrior. Ricky Steamboat did win the WCW Championship from “Nature Boy” Ric Flair in 1989.
“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase
Andre the Giant could have been allowed to sell the title to The Million Dollar Man on The Main Event after his controversial win over Hulk Hogan. Ted DiBiase then loses the belt to “Macho Man” Randy Savage at WrestleMania IV. How that changes history: There is no title tournament at WrestleMania IV, but the big matches that were part of the tournament like Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant and Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. “Ravishing” Rick Rude could still be booked. The main event also remains the same.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts
After turning heel over the summer, Jake Roberts could have defeated Hulk Hogan at Survivor Series 1991 instead of The Undertaker. How that changes history: Since The Undertaker’s first title reign was short and barely even acknowledged for several years, his career would not have suffered much. The Undertaker was a protégé of Jake Roberts at the time, so The Phenom could still be part of the angle and the title would probably still be declared vacant before the 1992 Royal Rumble.
“Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig
Tough to say as, unfortunately, Mr. Perfect was not involved in many angles with WWF Champions save for a brief feud with Hulk Hogan circa the 1990 Royal Rumble. Maybe he could have ended The Ultimate Warrior’s reign at Royal Rumble 1991 and then been in the main event of WrestleMania VII against Hulk Hogan? How that changes history: Sgt. Slaughter gets shafted big time, which I am not advocating. I am trying to come up with scenarios which do not alter history too much. Curt Hennig was at least the AWA Champion before joining the WWF in 1988.
“Ravishing” Rick Rude
Another tough one. Rick Rude departed for WCW while The Ultimate Warrior was the WWF Champion. He would have been another candidate to bridge the gap between The Warrior and Hulk Hogan in 1991 since he already beat The Warrior at WrestleMania V for the Intercontinental Championship. How that changes history: It was not my intent to pick on Sgt. Slaughter’s title reign, but erasing a reign of Hulk Hogan, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, or The Ultimate Warrior would alter WWF history to such a degree that it would be total fantasy booking without any link to reality. Rick Rude had three reigns as the WCW International Heavyweight Champion during the transitional period when the promotion showcased two heavyweight champions.
Owen could have defeated Bob Backlund at the Madison Square Garden houseshow the weekend after Survivor Series 1994 instead of Diesel. Owen had helped Backlund win the title. Betraying Backlund and taking the belt from him could have been phase two of Owen’s plan. Owen loses the belt to Diesel at Royal Rumble 1995. Bret “Hit Man” Hart interferes in that match. How that changes history: Diesel still faces Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XI, but Bret and Owen’s respective matches are a bit more tricky. Even with Yokozuna as his mystery tag team partner, Owen may not have challenged for the WWF Tag Team Championships. Owen could have fought Bret in the “I Quit” Match with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper as guest referee, taking the place of Bob Backlund. Bret vs. Backlund at WrestleMania XI was the weakest of the matches they competed in during their 1994-1995 rivalry anyway, but I do not enjoy leaving Yokozuna without a match. The roster was real thin at the time and I cannot think of worthy adversary for Yoko.
The Lex Express steadily derailed after he failed to take the gold from Yokozuna in the main event of SummerSlam 1993. In my own humble opinion, it was for the best that Yokozuna was booked as this unstoppable heel champion until WrestleMania X. Vince McMahon also chose wisely by having Bret “Hit Man” Hart be the hero who slayed the monster. The only other opportunity I can think of to make Lex champion would be to interrupt Diesel’s year long title reign in 1995. Lex could win the belt at the King of the Ring and lose it back to Diesel at SummerSlam. How that changes history: King Mabel never main events a pay-per-view and perhaps Lex does not jump to WCW and appear on the inaugural Monday Nitro, effecting the early days of the Monday Night War.
Not unlike Mr. Perfect, Razor Ramon was a perennial contender for the Intercontinental Championship. The only WWF Championship Match I can recall him competing in was against Bret “Hit Man” Hart at Royal Rumble 1993. That was not the right time for him to become champion, nor should he have ended Diesel’s 1995 reign. A likely scenario would have been for Scott Hall to not join WCW in 1996, remain with the WWF, turn heel, and feud with Shawn Michaels. They could have had another Ladder Match? They were tied at one a piece, so a rubber match to settle things? How that changes history: Scott Hall appearing announced on Nitro caused the Monday Night War to escalate in a big way. Scott Hall and subsequently Kevin Nash changed the industry forever in 1996. Like Roddy Piper, Scott Hall was one of the few WCW main event talents to not have a run with the WCW Championship in the late 1990s.
The Honky Tonk Man
He had the charisma, but not quite the wrestling skills to be the WWF Champion.
“The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich
He had the body builder physique the WWF loves, but lacked the promo ability.
“The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith
The same situation as with Kerry Von Erich. Great physique, generic promos.
An Intercontinental Champion who became WCW and TNA World Champion.
With his androgynous gimmick, he could have challenged Shawn Michaels in 1996.
Had he not returned to ultimate fighting, he may have become the WWF Champion.
January 21, 1990
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
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
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
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.
January 15, 1989
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
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.”
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