The SmarK Rant for Coliseum Video presents The Best of the WWF Volume 1
And now I begin my post-NXT freedom era by reviewing all of the Best of the WWF videos in order. Starting with the very first one from 1985, which I’ve never reviewed before!
Hosted by Vince McMahon, promising MAT ACTION AS NEVER BEFORE SEEN. I dunno, I’ve seen a lot of mat action in my time. Anyway, Vince lays out the card coming up and YOU BETCHA it’s a banger for sure.
Hulk Hogan & Andre the Giant v. Big John Studd, Adrian Adonis & Dick Murdoch
Never seen this one before. This is from Rutherford, NJ, taped on 7/15/84 and aired on an episode of World Championship Wrestling on 7/21/84 as a part of Vince McMahon’s unholy version of that show. And we’ve got Gorilla Monsoon and Red Bastien on commentary in another wacky pairing. Adonis gives it a try against Hulk to start and gets beat up, so he brings Hulk back to the corner and Murdoch throws elbows. We’re clipped to Studd having a showdown with Andre and then clipped again to Hulk beating on Adonis with knees in the corner, setting up Andre putting the beats on him as Adonis goes flying all over the ring for Andre. Studd and Murdoch come in to help and the faces pile them all up in the corner and ram into them, but Andre puts his head down and Studd catches him with a shot to take over. Crazy that ANDRE THE GIANT is the babyface in peril here. Murdoch puts him down with the Koloff knee from the top and we’re clipped again to Murdoch choking Andre down with the tag rope, but Andre grabs it from him and gets his own choking. That brings in Hogan with the hot tag and Adonis goes flying again while Murdoch takes his own clown bumps, but Hulk charges and hits an elbow to put the heels on offense again. That’s more like it. Adonis drops knees on Hogan, but goes up to the top and Hulk crotches him and bounces him on the top rope for a while, but Studd cuts Hulk off again and Murdoch comes in for more abuse. They collide and Hulk manages to crawl back for the hot tag to Andre, and the heels go flying for him again, although not Studd. Finally Studd is left alone with the babyfaces and they double-team him, prompting Studd to take a walk on his partners. Hulk makes the comeback on Murdoch in the meanwhile and Andre headbutts him and follows with the big boot and elbow drop for the pin at 9:35 shown. Apparently the original version was 22 minutes uncut, but this hit most of the major points and Adonis & Murdoch were having a contest to see who could take the biggest bumps so it was a lot of fun. 1 for 1.
WWF Women’s title: The Fabulous Moolah v. Wendi Richter
From the Brawl To Settle It All, and I’m assuming the match will be clipped all over so we’ll give it another look. Moolah takes Wendi down with hairtosses and sends her to the floor. Back in, Wendi tries to work the arm, and we’re clipped to Moolah choking her out on the ropes. We’re clipped another couple of times to Cyndi Lauper hitting Moolah with a rolled up towel, and Wendi gets a dropkick for two. Suplex gets two. Clipped again to Moolah getting a backdrop for two, but she picks her up. Clipped again to Moolah trying a rollup, but Wendi lifts her shoulder and gets the pin and the title at 4:19 aired. The full match was complete garbage but this was slightly less garbagy thanks to hacking half of it out. 1 for 2. Of course saying that it was an important title change is a massive understatement.
Baron Mikel Scicluna v. Gorilla Monsoon
From Championship Wrestling with a very famous segment, as Muhammad Ali is at ringside watching this one. Also, has anyone pointed out that Scicluna does a very familiar-looking “curse” taunt with his cape? Gorilla quickly chases Scicluna to the floor, which prompts Ali to jump into the ring and challenge Monsoon to some pugilism. So Gorilla grabs him in an airplane spin to put him down and Ali has had enough already. So he walks off and Gorilla joins Vince for a post-match interview, where he quips that Ali “doesn’t know a wristlock from a wristwatch”. 2 for 3.
Jimmy Snuka v. Bobby Bass
This is from some version of the syndicated shows, as Bass attacks and Snuka slams him and throws him around with hiptosses as a result. Snuka hits him with the headbutt, backbreaker, and finishes with the Superfly splash at 1:20. So this transitions into Snuka’s appearance on Piper’s Pit, as Piper gifts Snuka with some fruit, including pineapple (“Kind of like the women in Fiji, long frosty hair on top and big on the bottom”), bananas, and coconuts. Snuka won’t talk to him so Piper keeps talking faster and louder, calling Snuka a “monkey who climbs the trees”. Snuka: “Are you making fun of me?” Piper: “No sir.” And then WHAM, coconut to the skull and Piper smashes him through the backdrop and whips him with his belt. In a minor note, this is actually the edit from TNT because there’s an inset of Piper watching his handiwork while on that show. I don’t know why they’d use that version instead of the original master but the 80s were the Wild West for this stuff anyway. 3 for 4.
Rowdy Roddy Piper v. Jimmy Snuka
We are of course in MSG for their first match after the coconut, on the same show with the famous Freebird match, and they both give a war cry and start throwing punches, as Piper goes down first. We’re clipped to Piper thumbing Snuka in the eye to take over. Snuka fights back with chops and Piper goes tumbling out of the ring off that, and accidentally gets caught up in the loose ropes on the way back in. So Snuka improvises and beats on him there before going to the originally planned sleeper. They both head to the floor and Piper gets rammed into the post and desperately runs away, but Snuka grabs a chair from Piper and smashes it into Piper’s head. Back in the ring, Piper engages in some GORY SELF-MUTILATION and Snuka beats the hell out of him and adds a headbutt. Snuka goes up with a flying bodypress, but Piper counters him and drops him on the top rope, and Snuka bumps to the floor and he’s counted out at 5:54. A bit of a disappointment for all the hype but definitely good enough for a point. 4 for 5.
WWF Junior Heavyweight title: The Cobra v. Black Tiger
This is a very famous match from MSG in December of 1984, although oddly that show is absent from the WWE Network because OF COURSE IT IS. The Cobra is George Takano and Black Tiger is the famous Mark “Rollerball” Rocco from England. Cobra works the arm to start but Tiger hits a senton for two and goes to a headlock. Cobra backdrops him and goes to a chinlock, then hits Tiger with a leg lariat in the corner and goes up with a middle rope knee and gut wrench suplex for two. Crucifix gets two. Cobra with a gutbuster and he goes to a Boston crab and then releases and goes with a Romero Special instead. Black Tiger falls into the ropes to break, and we’re clipped to Cobra escaping a full nelson and dropkicking Tiger to the floor. Tiger goes up and Cobra slams him off and goes to a headscissors on the mat, but Tiger reverses out and gets a neckbreaker for two. Clipped to Cobra coming back with an enzuigiri for two and a dropkick to put Tiger on the floor, and he follows with a PLANCHA! Tiger recovers and fights back from the apron, and then comes back in with a top rope splash and follows with a brainbuster for two. Tombstone gets two. Another try is reversed by Cobra into his own, and he goes up and finishes with a top rope senton at 6:57 aired. This was MIND-BLOWING workrate for 1984, as they were working at a pace that was a decade ahead of its time for the WWF. A must-see match if you’re never seen it before. 5 for 6.
Speaking of classic footage, Hulk Hogan trains Mean Gene for his wrestling debut, as Gene wants some pancakes and a cigar…
…but Hulk insists on making him a breakfast of four raw eggs in a glass instead. Next up, Hulk takes him for a run around the lake, and then on a jog through Minny. So Gene tries to sneak off and get a beer and a bratwurst and Hulk catches him.
Day 2, and Hulk takes him to the gym for some intense training. Then the next day, Hulk kidnaps Gene from his home at 6am (“What are you doing in my home at this hour?”) and takes him to the arena to run the stairs with Hulk on his back, which finally inspires Gene to believe in himself enough for the tag team match.
Hulk Hogan & Mean Gene v. George Steele & Mr. Fuji
This was of course Vince McMahon metaphorically ripping Verne Gagne’s head off and shitting down his throat by selling out in Minny with this main event. Hulk throws Fuji around with slams to start, so it’s over to the Animal, as Hulk backs off for a little advice from Mean Gene. That advice? “If you think you’re secretly being filmed for a sex tape, for the love of god don’t say anything racist!” We’re clipped to Animal hitting Hogan with a foreign object, but Hogan chases him off and Gene stomps on Fuji’s fingers. So Hulk and Gene share a high five, but that apparently counts as a tag and Hulk fully believes in Gene’s ability to wrestle. And Gene wisely runs away from Animal and tags Hulk right back. Hulk cleans house and Gene knocks the racist salt away from Fuji, before Hulk slams Gene onto Fuji and that gets the roof-exploding pin at 3:25 aired. The whole thing is an easy point. 6 for 7.
Bruno Sammartino v. Larry Zbyszko
Interestingly, this is one of the most famous angles in wrestling history and it’s omitted from the collection of All Star Wrestling on the WWE Network because OF COURSE IT IS. So the idea is that Larry is Bruno’s long-time student in 1980 and he’s been feeling underappreciated and wants to show that he can hang with the teacher. So Bruno indulges him in an “exhibition” match so that Larry can get it out of his system. But just the one match, and never again. Larry evades Bruno with his speed to start, and Bruno gets a go-behind and frustrates Larry until he’s able to escape. Bruno with a headlock, but Larry takes him down with a hiptoss for two. Larry tries his own headlock, but Bruno takes him down with a drop toehold and then lets him go because he’s a sportsman. Larry with a slam this time for two, so Bruno gives it right back and Larry is getting more and more flustered. Larry tries a hammerlock and Bruno powers out, so Larry goes with the abdominal stretch instead, and Bruno just escapes that with a hiptoss, despite that being Larry’s big hold. Larry with a slam for two and he takes Bruno down with a half-crab to work on the knee, but Bruno reverses out of that. Bruno tries a top wristlock, but then just lets him go and tries the headlock again. Zbyszko tries to hiptoss out, but Bruno gets his own instead and Larry is getting more angry. So now he starts getting aggressive with shoulderblocks, but walks right into a bearhug as a result, and Bruno immediately lets it go because he doesn’t want to hurt his student. But that just cheeses Larry off even more and he gets frustrated while trying a hammerlock, falling to the floor. Bruno holds the ropes open for him, and Larry goes OFF on him, hitting him wit a cheapshot and putting the boots to him, and then finally grabs a chair from ringside and WAFFLES Bruno for the DQ at 9:34, busting his mentor open. And Larry just beats the bejesus out of Bruno with the chair to MONSTER heat, as Bruno bleeds all over the ring. What a fantastic piece of storytelling this was. 7 for 8.
Cage match: Bruno Sammartino v. Larry Zbyszko
From the famous Shea Stadium show in 1980, and this is the main event and a classic case of Be Careful What You Wish For. Bruno just unloads on Larry right away, tossing him into the cage repeatedly and putting the boots to him, no longer the mentor holding back out of kindness. Larry tries to escape the door, so Bruno hauls him back and we get some cheese grater action before we’re clipped to Zbyszko using a low blow to finally escape the beating. Larry goes for the door and Bruno pulls him down again, so Larry runs him into the cage and tries to climb over the top this time. Bruno just hauls him down as Larry bumps to the mat, and we’re clipped to Bruno putting him down with a knee to the back and then choking him out on the ropes. Larry tries to climb the ropes and Bruno slams him off the top, but we’re clipped to Larry beating on the arm in the corner after injuring it. Larry goes for the door again, but Bruno pulls him back in and then runs him into the post for fun. More vicious beating as Bruno just hurls Larry into the cage repeatedly, puts the boots to his face, and then wipes his sweat onto Larry and walks out the door to win the war at 5:14 aired. 8 for 9.
Man what a slam dunk this first tape in the series was. Really you could strongly argue the point for Moolah-Richter for historical significance if you wanted and give it a perfect score. Of course the quality doesn’t last at this level, but we’ll get to that as we go.