No, not THIS WrestleFest. But damn, that game was awesome.
WWF WRESTLEFEST ’88:
(July 31, 1988, Milwaukee Coliseum)
* So while looking for more Dream Matches, I found this interesting card. It’s been covered on the Blog in the distant past, but it seems fun. This was one of those times Vince “My philosophy is help yourself; don’t hurt the other guy” McMahon deliberately booked a super-show specifically to hurt the other guy, as Great American Bash tour was kicking off in Milwaukee the next night, so Vince is like “HEY HAVE A STADIUM SHOW WITH ALL MY BIGGEST STARS!” putting the hot World Title program and Hogan/Andre in a goddamn Steel Cage in the Main Event slots. The obvious reason being to make the WWF look awesome and the NWA look like shit, and to make fans spend money and hype on this show instead of that one. And I guess it worked.
This show is kind of scattered around the ‘net, as they didn’t quite air the whole thing at once- the openers were taped for regular TV shows and the Title Match is on DailyMotion, so this is scattered between YouTube and DM. But it’s an interesting time for the company, as things are hot as hell 3+ years after the Hogan Era began and the Mega Powers era is in full swing. Your hosts are Lord Alfred Hayes, Sean Mooney & Superstar Billy Graham, which is an, um, odd assortment of B & C-Team announcers.
BAD NEWS BROWN vs. BRET “HIT MAN” HART:
* So this feud has been ongoing since WrestleMania IV, where Bret got his first brush with solo stardom by getting to the end of a Battle Royal alongside Bad News (his old enemy from Stampede, in fact), and they agreed to share the trophy… at which point the hapless Hit Man was struck with the Ghetto Blaster and tossed. An enraged Bret charged the ring and tore the trophy to pieces, as “Pissed Off Babyface” ALWAYS WORKS. This is of course the first time Vince, who definitely recognized workrate when he saw it, tried to push Bret solo, but he quickly went back on it.
Bad News kicks Bret’s ass after refusing a clean break, but Bret hits an ugly leapfrog and hits his usual excellent stuff, Hayes finally getting out “Excellence of Execution” after a couple tries. He rakes the eyes and builds his SmackDown! meter with repeated posing, but eats a boot charging into the corner… but shows off his “Goldbricking” routine by popping up and Flair Tossing Brown off the top! He drops an elbow of Bret’s Rope for two, Graham lecturing about not hooking the leg, and Bad News goes to the eyes and Bret eats a clothesline, flipping over on a huge sell. Brown goes for the Ghetto Blaster (standing enzuigiri)… but Bret ducks! Then backdrops Bad News out and hits his pescado! Cross-body, sunset flip & backbreaker get two-counts, but Bad News reverses another schoolboy by grabbing the tights for the win (6:26). So a miscarriage of justice and the Anvil comes out so the Harts send Brown running after a brawl.
Man, Bret was IMMENSELY good. Even here, without his Sharpshooter or Main Event Cred, he just has perfect movements and great selling. Someone on the blog mentioned how “smart” his stuff looked, too- not as flashy as lucha, but his little jumps off the second rope or the pescado are high-impact without being SUPER high-risk, because they can be applied quickly and the drop isn’t so far; it was just enough extra energy to expend- no more, no less. They add just a bit of “oomph” but let him stay relatively safe while popping the crowd. The ending was a pretty solid “Bret Match Ending” with a reversal, but with some cheating so Bret saves face.
Rating: **1/2 (very good but short on time)
THE HONKY TONK MAN (w/ Colonel Jimmy Hart) vs. “HACKSAW” JIM DUGGAN:
* This is the typical HTM bout- Honky against a mega-over babyface who will kill him, so he has to cheat or flee. Honky’s in black and Duggan’s in dark blue.
Honky rubber-legs immediately because Duggan eats him alive out there. Flair Flop! Honky bails after a big clothesline but Hacksaw knocks his & the Colonel’s heads together to the delight of the crowd. Honky jumps him when he takes too long getting back into the ring and Jimmy adds choking, but Duggan Hulks Up until Honky goes to the eyes. Duggan resists a turnbuckle smash and beats Honky’s ass, but Jimmy trips him during the Three-Point Stance for the DQ at (4:38). Duggan raises hell afterwards, dragging Jimmy back into the ring for an ass-whuppin’ (audibly calling him a “son of a bitch!” on-camera), but has to settle for stealing Honky’s guitar and smashing the shit out of it. Standard Honky screwjob, which is why, after nearly two years, the Warrior unseating him in a couple months was so sweet.
Rating: *1/4 (didn’t have a chance to suck- Honky sold the beating well and got out of there alive)
THE POWERS OF PAIN (Warlord & Barbarian) vs. THE BOLSHEVIKS (Nikolai Volkoff & Boris Zhukov):
* Basic midcard tag team match, as the babyface Powers are doing their best Road Warriors gimmick against the bottom-tier Bolsheviks.
The POP attack before the bell and wreck house after the Soviet National Anthem. Volkoff/Barbarian run into each other repeatedly to a stalemate, but Zhukov does a backflip when it’s his turn. Big powerslam and Nikolai breaks up the pin. Graham is actually kinda funny on commentary, talking about asking the Barbarian where he’s from (“None of your business”, then cracks up trying to figure out where that is). Zhukov cheats to help Nikolai during a test of strength with Warlord, but tries a second time and clobbers his partner. Barbarian dominates but charges into the post, but a STIFF double-clothesline kills the Russians. Hot tag Warlord, the Bolsheviks are rammed into each other after some uncoordinated stuff, and the Running Powerslam/Flying Headbutt kills Zhukov at (6:47)- POP wins!
Rating: 1/2* (Plodding match- the Bolsheviks were horrible at everything, Warlord was stiff, and it was mostly a test of strength)
JIM “THE ANVIL” NEIDHART vs. “LEAPING” LANNY POFFO:
* Yes, a JOBBER MATCH. Poffo, doing a “sissy” gimmick kinda, is in green trunks and throwing frisbees into the crowd and doing a poem while this obvious piss-break match features a solo Neidhart (solo Neidhart NEVER WORKS).
Poffo actually catches Jim charging in to start, but goes to the Moonsault (one foot on the second rope) early and eats knees. Neidhart cackles away and drops forearms, mauling away. He takes the Bret Bump on a corner charge, but catches Poffo with a Powerslam off the ropes for quick three (2:35).
Rating: 1/2* (nothing jobber match)
“RAVISHING” RICK RUDE vs. JAKE “THE SNAKE” ROBERTS:
* This is during the great feud with Rude hitting on Jake’s wife Cheryl. Graham & Alfred just BURST into laughter at the suggestion that Rude is friends with Graham. Rude tells the fat, out of shape dairy farmers of Milwaukee to look at the body “that drove Jake’s old lady insane”, causing Jake to charge the ring and attack! Jake’s in blue tights, while Rude is wearing MAGENTA of all things. Man I don’t normally have to check a color chart to find a wrestler’s color scheme, but Rude is a special case.
Rude does his cartoon tippy-toes selling while Jake works the abs (NO NOT THE ABS), but they settle into a “pose/stall/punch”-fest. Sooooooo many restholds. Nine minutes in and this is all I’ve written down. Jake FINALLY fights up but runs into a boot and sells for like 40 seconds, then gets necksnapped and Rude actually hits whatever that flying thing is guys try when they fly off into an outstretched foot. Rude poses and poses before going for the pin and gets rolled back for two. Rude divebombs him again and THAT keeps going, but Jake finally starts getting fired up. Eyerake by Rude, but he climbs and gets crotched on the top turnbuckle, and you don’t have to ask him to oversell THAT. Jake finally gets a kneelift and Rude gets his tights yanked down escaping the DDT, leading to the short-arm clothesline. Jake goes for the DDT again, but Rude shoves the ref down and LANDS on him during the move, which effectively takes the ref out AND blocks the finisher. Rude takes a powder after a clothesline and Jake follows him for the Double Count-Out at (15:44)- fifteen minutes for THAT finish?!? Jake goes into the post after the match, but gets a “python necktie” (thanks, Mooney) and does the greatest sell of Damien I’ve ever seen in my life, writhing around as if a fatality’s about to take place. oh man- most guys just freak and scurry away! Rude looks like we need Jack Hanna out here to save his ass.
Rating: 1/4* (Jake is the weirdest wrestler. He turned “sell like you’re dying and get NOTHING from the guy” into an art form that made him tremendously over but made all his matches suck- all restholds and fuck finishes since they didn’t want any top heel dying to the DDT. Almost 80% of this was resting and posing)
Macho & Liz- an all-time main event act.
WWF WORLD TITLE:
“MACHO MAN” RANDY SAVAGE (w/ Miss Elizabeth) vs. “THE MILLION DOLLAR MAN” TED DIBIASE (w/ Virgil):
* The company’s Main Event program continues! Ted was legit at this point- a possible top guy, and Savage was hot as part of the Mega Powers. This match is only on DailyMotion, near as I can tell. Macho’s in red, Ted’s in black.
Virgil threatens Elizabeth at the start, which is a perfect “provoke the beast” move as Savage hits the floor and takes an axehandle off the apron as a result. DiBiase goes in with his great brawling, but Savage catches him with a clothesline and beats his ass- Virgil blocks an axehandle to the floor, but Ted gets his foot caught and takes a HUGE atomic drop bump to the floor in a signature bump for him (that one where he does a one-handed handstand and flips over the top). Various cheapshots put him back on offense and Savage is rubber-legged from going into the timekeeper’s table. Ted throws more shots for a two-count as they’re pretty clever in keeping Macho’s comebacks temporary but ensuring it’s not just a COMPLETE ass-kicking, but still keeps DiBiase looking clever. Hayes puts over his timing and ring smarts as Ted hits a double-axehandle & backbreaker for two-counts. Savage reverses a suplex and they slug it out on the mat to get the crowd into it, ending PERFECTLY with Savage rat-a-tatting Ted to his feet, knocking him around and hitting a huge cross-body for two as the entire crowd stands up. But Ted clotheslines him and that’s it for that!
DiBiase goes to a resthold for a while, clearly tired after that flurry, and they keep on it, pulling the hair to reapply it behind the ref’s back (Hebner: “She [Liz] says you pulled the hair!” “SHUT UP! Don’t listen to her!”). But now SAVAGE grabs the hair to come back, smashing Ted into the corner. But Ted STILL comes back, throwing errant punches and dodging a knee in the corner, but Savage reverses two spinning toeholds and Ted’s bumped to the floor- he comes off the top, but eats a fist! This sets off Randy’s comeback, as he bashes Ted around, throatsnaps him off the top and sets up his own flying axehandle. But the hurt knee slows him down and Virgil outright interferes, but Ted charges into him and Savage schoolboys him for two! Crowd bought that. Macho puts his head down and gets caught, and Ted goes for the Million Dollar Dream! Savage manages to block it, but Virgil smashes him with the chair while Hebner admonishes DiBiase! And Ted covers- 1..2… NO! Crowd bought that, too. Ted keeps up the punishment with his fistdrops, but tries to slam Randy— Small Package! 1…2…3! Savage wins (14:52)!
Ted & Virgil kick his ass after the fact- the crowd chants for Hogan as Hebner is tossed around, helpless to assist, but Savage gets dumped. Then, while Virgil puts the WWF belt around the Million Dollar Man’s waist, Savage launches a chair into the ring and charges, sending them scurrying! So he looks like a big man on his own, with no need for Hogan, and comes from behind after some A-class cheating (chairshots were DEATH back then).
Holy crap these two are good. Like that’s no hot take, but just the way they move is an art form into itself. Never mind Ted slickly reversing all those comebacks to give the crowd just a TASTE of Savage’s offense before bringing them back down by getting his foot up in the corner or something. Like, this match was almost all Ted on offense, but it never looked like Savage was hopeless, and the crowd is DYING for that comeback. And then Savage scores a desperate one, sweating his ass off and selling the knee so it gets over huge. The chairshot with Ted distracting was a thing of beauty, the crowd standing up in horror, thinking they were gonna see a huge miscarriage of justice like Hogan earlier in the year. And then Randy looks smart on his own, doing a comeback after all than unfair stuff, catching DiBiase by surprise but winning clean.
Rating: ***3/4 (really good match from these two- they’d obviously been working all over the world with each other by this point, as it was pinpoint precision)
KING HAKU vs. SAM HOUSTON:
* This match doesn’t appear on the VHS release, and I can only find it joined in progress on YouTube. King Haku at this point was getting a very minor midcard gimmick, probably just to set him up as a JTTS for Hogan-types that wouldn’t be completely one-sided in the future. Houston was barely a step above jobber, filling that Goon/Freddie Joe Floyd/TL Hopper zone of “Pretend Featured Guys”- he was just way too skinny- even in today’s AEW he’d be a little lean. Haku’s in purple and Houston’s in red, with furry boots.
Haku easily beats Sam’s ass when the clip starts, stuffing a comeback but missing an elbow. Sam gets punches and a hooking clothesline for two, but gets his eyes raked, leapfrogs off a whip, and leans backwards right into a Reverse Crescent Kick. Falling Headbutt ends it at (3:11 of 5:04 shown).
Rating: 1/2* (pretty much nothing but basic offense)
WEASEL SUIT MATCH:
THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR vs. BOBBY “THE BRAIN” HEENAN:
* So this was going around the house shows at the time, with retired wrestler Bobby decked out in hilarious Andre single-strap tights up against a white-clad Warrior during the early part of his mega-push. The story here is that Heenan signed a contract without looking at it, and got roped into this one-sided shit-kicking as a result.
Heenan, great heel that he is, gets hauled into the post like a moron and spends several minutes doing a Larry Zbyszko impression trying to escape. They do a hide-and-seek routine and Warrior pops out from under the ring right behind the Brain, throttling him and smashing him into the turnbuckles. Bobby drops a LOUD “Get him off me, ref! That son of a bitch!” and grabs a foreign object in his tights and gets Warrior in the throat repeatedly, playing some great sleight of hand, always having it just out of view of the ref, spinning around or dropping it into different spots. But then he accidentally drops it and he’s through- Bobby panics as Warrior unloads on him, whipping him into the corner, causing a half-Flair Flip (poor old Bobby just hits upside-down and drops like a stone), and finally hits a random sleeperhold for the win (4:59), Hayes laughing at how quickly Bobby went down compared to normal wrestlers (“I don’t think I’ve EVER seen someone go out from a sleeper that quickly!”).
So Warrior wraps up an unconscious Heenan into a weasel suit, leaving Bobby to wake up, realize what he’s wearing, and FREAKS. He spins around, scared of his own tail, then tosses the suit into the air, getting startled by it as it lands in front of him. Good, cartoonish nonsense and the crowd loved it- what a classic buffoon.
Rating: 1/2* (all stalling and cheating, but Bobby getting his ass kicked is always funny)
WWF TAG TEAM TITLES:
DEMOLITION (Ax & Smash, w/ Mr. Fuji) vs. THE BRITISH BULLDOGS (Davey-Boy Smith & Dynamite Kid):
* This is one of those mega-Dream Matches that takes place in 1980s WWF, but it’s late-stage Bulldogs on their way out, so it’s not as good as it should be. This is found in whole in a separate YouTube clip from the earlier matches.
Davey does well against Smash, but Ax hits Jumping Demolition Axehandles on Kid and they clobber him for a while. Nervehold and the Demos do plenty of quick tags and cheating, but Davey pays them back by breaking up a bearhug, then kicking both their asses on the hot tag. Ax knees him, but Smash misses an elbow and Dyno comes in for ANOTHER hot tag, hitting a clothesline and snap suplex on him. Davey-Boy press-slams Kid into a headbutt on Smash as the crowd ERUPTS, sensing a title switch, but Ax breaks it up- Fuji distracts Davey and earns a beating, Dyno hits the Octopus Stretch, Ax grabs the cane and Kid gets clocked for the pin (7:08)- Demo retains in a heartbreaker.
Rating: ** (pretty disappointing, short match- two quick hot tags and a couple of good moves, but mostly resting and some simple brawling)
“CANADA’S STRONGEST MAN” DINO BRAVO vs. KEN PATERA:
* OH GOD WHY DID I DECIDE TO REVIEW THIS SHOW?!? Ken was shockingly still in the company at this point, actively being jobbed out while commentators ragged on him in the shows. And the long, national nightmare that is Dino Bravo has begun. To think I got through all my reviews to this point without having to review a Dino Bravo match so far. Dino’s in black trunks, back before he defaulted to powder blue, and Patera’s in his blue singlet, looking like a jacked up Richard Simmons as always.
Ken attacks before the bell and even strangles Dino using his own jacket, which is a delight- Bravo takes a back body drop and Baba Chops, then Patera slams him from the apron to the ring and drops an elbow for two. Bravo bails to regroup, but Patera fires him right back in, which is pretty fun, but then he puts his head down and Bravo takes over. Inverted atomic drop, jumping elbow & choking and now KEN bails- Bravo mauls him back in the ring by he fires back with a clothesline and elbows for two, then a small package for the same. But then he does his standard Match-Costing Mistake, as he misses a corner charge and eats a clothesline and the Side Suplex for the pin (3:28).
Rating: 1/2* (… WELL… I mean, it was all action and nobody had the chance to look horrible. Momentum shifted back and forth and such! But it was still super-basic and jobbery, and was short. At least Bravo managed to get some lift on that Side Suplex- it may be the worst finisher in WWF history, but he jumped into this one)
STEEL CAGE MATCH:
HULK HOGAN vs. ANDRE THE GIANT (w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan):
* So you wanna fuck over Jim Crockett and the NWA? You put Hogan & Andre in a cage in the show right before theirs. Like, what show do you think is gonna be a bigger deal? This feud is STILL ongoing, now tied into the Savage/DiBiase feud as Mega Powers & Mega Bucks fight. Like, that’s a lot of mileage, even in the ’80s. Blue barred old-school cage, too. Hogan doing his “point & taunt” and tearing the shirt while Andre has the most vicious, sinister grin on his face is some epic shit. Let NWA have their hardscrabble guys & Four Horsemen- this looks like GODS fighting.
Hogan & Andre charge right into each other, grappling away, but Andre just throttles and chokes Hogan with his own bandana. Hogan narrowly avoids going into the cage and rakes the eyes. He uses the bandana to assist in a flurry of punches in the corner, then steps on Andre’s neck using the cage for leverage. Then, in a great bit, Andre traps Hogan’s punching arm (PSYCHOLOGY!), then ties him to the cage with the bandana, getting this huge smile on his face as he makes inhuman noises and pounds away with glee. Hogan finally escapes and LEAPS across the ring to stop Andre from going out the door. Andre bearhugs him to prevent a beating, but Hogan bashes away and climbs- Andre levels him and yanks him off the second rope for a solid bump. Big elbow hits, but Hogan again stops the escape and grapples Andre’s face, only for Andre to pull the turnbuckle off and smash Hogan into the exposed steel!
Andre punches and headbutts a bleeding Hogan, but Hulk grabs a foot to prevent an escape. Andre misses a big boot and staggers off of a shot, so Hogan goes nuts with strikes, Andre collapsing off of a huge clothesline. The Legdrop hits! Hogan goes to climb, but Heenan busts into the ring with a HUGE set of brass knuckles, but Hogan just gets pissed off, no-sells it, and absolutely PINBALLS Heenan off of a right hand. Then Andre climbs (!!), but Hogan grabs the weapon and blasts him in the side, then the forehead, sending Andre into the Andre Pose, tied in the ropes between the apron and the cage. Then Hogan’s all “hey, look at THIS!” and launches Heenan into the cage for another mega-bump from the Brain, then triumphantly climbs out while the fans lose it at (9:52).
Shockingly decent given Andre’s limitations- Andre can’t do much, so they stick to the corners and let Hogan do everything. Andre was immobile but smart- trapping the punching arm and using the bandana to strangle away. And there was a cool bit where Hogan hits the clothesline and Andre staggers… staggers… then hits the ropes, turns around and collapses to his knees, rolling over into perfect Legdrop position. And when Hogan gets the brass knuckles, he makes sure to pick it up in an obvious manner and brandish it to the fans so they know what’s going on- turnabout is fair play. And never mind Heenan just FLYING around to sell Hogan’s offense. This was much, MUCH better than the WrestleMania matches, as the Cage is better at hiding Andre’s weaknesses.
Rating: *** (what? SHUT UP! It was well-booked and didn’t outstay its welcome!)
Overall, this was a great show and I think the fans got their money’s worth, even with cheap endings, abridged matches and that awful Jake/Rude thing. Most of the big bouts ended with the fans happy (Honky & Brown screwed the fans, but HTM got his guitar wrecked and Brown got chased off), especially the World Title match and the Cage match. Never mind seeing Heenan get the living shit kicked out of him on two separate occasions.
The Big Boss Man defeated Scott Casey (4:15)
Brutus Beefcake defeated Hercules (9:37)
The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacques Rougeau & Raymond Rougeau) defeated The Killer Bees (B. Brian Blair & Jim Brunzell) (13:59)
Mr. Perfect defeated The Red Rooster (4:52)
-Some of these were used for TV afterwards, though