The SmarK Rant for WWF WrestleFest 88 – 07.31.88
Taped from Milwaukee, WI, a stadium show drawing 25,000 as a sort-of sequel to Wrestlemania IV. There are people reading this who weren’t born when I reviewed it for the first time and debuted match times in my rants, so it’s well overdue for another look. This is of course the Coliseum Video version of the show, which omits some of the card to make it 2 hours.
Your hosts are Sean Mooney, Superstar Billy Graham & Lord Alfred Hayes. Good lord. Mooney notes that the stadium is “filled to capacity”, which is pretty strange definition of the word “capacity”. Especially since the entire field is empty except for a few seats around the ring! It does look pretty full on the camera side, at least. Not that any of them would know, because they’re so obviously in front of a green screen that they might as well have a weather report behind them instead of the “stadium”.
The Killer Bees v. The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers
We’re into the weird endtimes of the Bees, as they’re wearing long pants with horizontal stripes and look like complete dorks. Brunzell chases Raymond to the floor while Hayes basically calls the Bees fat, noting that “they put on a little body weight”. He’s not even sure if Brunzell can still throw a dropkick! Brunzell takes Raymond down with a flying headscissors, which I’m pretty sure indicates he can throw a damn DROPKICK. Over to Jacques and he trades hammerlocks with B. Brian Blair (the “B” stands for “Big Fat Fattie” I’m assuming) and Jacques offers up a left-handed handshake in sportsmanship. Mooney thinks this is suspicious, but clearly he doesn’t know that we secretly shake hands with our left hands here in Canada and just haven’t told anyone in the US about it. Oh shit, I’ve said too much now. Disregard that last sentence. Brunzell comes in and the Rougeaus double-team him while Alfred STILL won’t shut the fuck up about the “extra body weight”, but it’s back to Blair, who goes to work on Raymond’s leg. Both sides regroup and Blair grabs a headlock on Jacques, but Jacques takes him down with a drop toehold, so Blair gets his own and the Bees double-team him in the corner. Blair with a Boston crab, but he’s clearly too fat to get full extension on the hold, so Jacques makes the ropes and brings Raymond back in. Ray gets his own crab, although I’m surprised that Blair’s bulbous frame can even bend backwards like that, and Blair reverses to a cradle for two. Shocked that Raymond could kick out with the equivalent of Keith Lee eating Rikishi sitting on top of him like that. Blair gets trapped in the French corner and worked over, and Jacques goes to the abdominal stretch. Raymond of course adds the superkick to the gut for two. And that’s a big target, if you know what I’m saying. Because he’s FAT. Raymond with a chinlock and he tries a monkey flip out of the corner, but Blair is obviously too heavy to flip over and blocks the move, hitting an atomic drop instead. Hot tag Brunzell and he rams them together and gets the figure-four, but the ref is distracted with Blair and Raymond saves. It’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA and Brunzell goes to slam Jacques, but Raymond punches him in the face and Jacques falls on top for the pin at 14:00. Well the Bees certainly looked like big fat losers there. No wonder they were eating their feelings. Match was OK. **1/4
Bad News Brown v. Bret Hart
First attempt at a Bret singles push here, and he’s very concerned about no one being around to take his sunglasses before the match as he quips “Hey, does anyone work here?” before finally tossing them out to the crowd instead. And that’s the origin of that, I guess. Bad News attacks to start, but Bret slugs away in the corner and takes him down for the gut stomp. Hayes: “As our colleague Gorilla Monsoon says, his excellence is absolute perfection”. I’m not sure that Gorilla says that. Bad News blocks a blind charge with a boot, but he goes up and Bret reveals that he was faking and slams him off. Middle rope elbow gets two. Snap suplex and legdrop get two. He goes for the backbreaker and Bad News pokes him in the eye to escape and then hits him with a clothesline out of the corner. But then he walks around the ring yelling “GHETTO BLASTER” over and over, which Bret SOMEHOW manages to duck. Almost like he knew it was coming! He really is the excellence of perfection! Bret backdrops him to the floor and follows with a pescado, and back in for a bodypress that gets two. Sunset flip gets two. Backbreaker gets two. Rollup gets two. Brown rolls him over for the pin, however, grabbing the tights at 6:30. As we know, this first attempt didn’t stick, but Bret would have his day and there was a lot of little stuff that he would get over bigger later. Anyway I really enjoyed this one. ***
Intercontinental title: The Honky Tonk Man v. Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Well this is certainly a combination you don’t see often. Unsurprisingly, Honky runs away to start, but he tries to sneak attack Duggan and gets beat up. Duggan slugs away in the corner and yells at Hebner to “get off my ass”, then runs Honky into the corner 10 times and clotheslines him to the floor. But this time Honky is successful in his sneak attack, somehow outsmarting Duggan. Perhaps Duggan was tired out from his last MENSA meeting. Honky rakes the eyes and works him over in the corner while Hayes notes that Honky has been champion “close to two years” at that point. Maybe math works different in Britain. Duggan comes back with a clothesline out of the corner and sets up the three point stance, but Jimmy Hart trips him up for the DQ at 4:39. A complete nothing of a match. DUD And then afterwards Duggan smashes up Honky’s guitar with his board and the morons in Milwaukee actually cheer for this destruction of musical history and private property. But then they love polka, so what do they know?
The Bolsheviks v. The Powers of Pain
The Powers, fresh off jumping from Crockett, attack at the bell and chase the Russians to the floor. Back in, Volkoff tries and fails to lock up with Barbarian, who overpowers Boris in turn. Powerslam gets two. Over to Warlord, who does the test of strength with Volkoff while Superstar earns his pay by nothing that Warlord’s back is “as wide as a drive movie theater” and that the Powers walk around the streets dressed like this, complete with makeup. Barbarian comes in and misses a blind charge on Zhukov, as the Bolsheviks take over on the Wish.com Warriors and work him over in the corner. Barbarian sells nothing while the crowd is distracted by a fight or something, and it’s hot tag Warlord as they finish Boris with the powerslam and diving headbutt at 6:48. Koloffs v. Road Warriors this was definitely not, and the Powers had ZERO charisma. I mean, I can see why Vince would give them a chance, but WOOF. -*
Jim Neidhart v. Leaping Lanny Poffo
This is a weird matchup to say the least. Poffo doesn’t even have any funny lines in his poem, just putting over the city. Poffo quickly slams him and tries a moonsault, but Anvil gets the knees up to block and beats him down to take over. Superstar: “You know, he’s played for 4 or 5 different pro football teams!” I learned something new today. Poffo tries a sunset flip and Anvil clubs him down to block before choking away in the corner, but he misses the blind charge and Poffo makes the comeback. And Anvil powerslams him to end that at 2:38. Total squash for the aimless Anvil. DUD
Ravishing Rick Rude v. Jake Roberts
Rude calls out the “dirtball dairy farmers” and dedicates the match to Jake’s wife, so of course the Snake attacks and chases him to the floor with an atomic drop. Back in, Jake slugs away and Rude runs away again. Back in the ring, Rude gets a cheapshot and beats on him with forearms to take over, but Jake tries the DDT and Rude escapes to the floor again. Back in, Rude goes after the snake to distract Jake and then puts him down to set up a chinlock. Rude drops an elbow for two but Jake is in the ropes, so Rude stomps on the leg that’s in the ropes. Rude drops elbows and goes to another chinlock to really sell their bitter blood feud. “The wiggles don’t get the job done” notes Hayes as the chinlock continues for more minutes. It goes on for so long that the announcers recap the entire storyline thus far, until Jake finally fights out after something like 3:00 in the hold. But then he charges and hits Rude’s boot in the corner, and it’s a double down. Rude recovers first and necks Jake, then he goes up with the fistdrop and stops to pose. That gets two, but Jake reverses for two. Rude beats him down further and goes up to the top, but Jake crotches him and you don’t have to ask Rude twice to sell that. Rude comes back with the kneelift, but Rude uses the ropes to escape the DDT. So Jake pulls him back by the tights, giving the crowd a full moon, but Rude bumps the ref to escape the DDT. So Jake clotheslines him to the floor and they fight to a double countout at 15:46. I just don’t understand why they didn’t have chemistry together. **
(At this point we lose Randy Savage v. Ted Dibiase and Mr. Perfect v. Terry Taylor, both of which are available elsewhere and will hopefully be restored to a full version of this show on the Network someday. I’ll be reviewing Macho Madness right away anyway.)
Weasel Suit Match: Ultimate Warrior v. Bobby Heenan
Warrior chases Bobby around the ring and finally catches him at 1:30, running him into the corner and beating on him until Bobby finally locates a foreign object in his boot and gets some shots with that. Warrior randomly makes the comeback and tosses Bobby around with no care paid to his well-being in real life, and he finishes with the sleeper at 4:55. Bobby of course was not particularly complimentary of Warrior’s work with him in these matches. And of course Bobby gets stuffed into the weasel suit and flails around for the kids. DUD
WWF tag team title: Demolition v. The British Bulldogs
Kind of weird that the Bulldogs lost at Wrestlemania but still get a title shot here. Smash beats on Davey in the corner to start, but Smith gets a sunset flip for two and goes to an armbar. Dynamite continues with that, but he gets caught by Ax and beat down in the corner. Kid fights back with a headbutt for two and goes back to the arm, but Ax slams out of that and drops an elbow on him. The Demos double-team Kid with the beatdown in the corner and Ax goes to a chinlock, but Kid fights out of that and Ax tosses him. At this point Superstars questions why Lord Alfred doesn’t manage his countrymen, but Alfred notes that he’d want them to be more devious if he did so. Like what, messing with someone’s gear in the locker room or something? I don’t think they’d have it in them, to be honest. Back in, Smash goes to a bearhug and Davey breaks it up, but that allows the Demos to double-him Kid further behind the ref’s back. Davey gets the hot tag and fights them both off, backdropping Ax for two. But Ax cuts him off with a knee to the gut, so it’s back to Dyno. Snap suplex on Smash gets two. Davey presses Kid into a flying headbutt on Smash for two and it’s a PIER SIX BRAWL. Kid with an Octopus on Smash, but Ax uses the cane to knock him out and puts Smash on top for the pin at 7:12. Way too short but really fun while it lasted. **1/2
Dino Bravo v. Ken Patera
OH JOY. I haven’t seen this match in 25 years and I can call the finish right now. Patera attacks Bravo and chokes him out with his own jacket before slugging him out to the apron. Back in with a slam and elbow for two. They fight to the floor, but Bravo catches him with an atomic drop and drops an elbow for two. Patera bails to the floor and Bravo puts the boots to him from the apron, but Patera fights back in and hits a clothesline. Small package gets two. But then Ken SHOCKINGLY misses a blind charge and hits the corner, and Bravo finishes with the side slam at 3:30. My god, I should tell fortunes at the fair or something with my prognosticative powers. Negative one billion stars.
Steel Cage: Andre the Giant v. Hulk Hogan
Hopefully they can follow that last classic here. This cage match, complete with stadium setting, was rumored to be the main event of Wrestlemania IV before they pivoted to the tournament idea early in 88 instead. Andre chokes out Hulk with his own shirt while Mooney has to explain the rules of a cage match to Alfred and sounds like a complete moron doing so, as apparently someone HAS to go over the top of the cage and to the floor. Unless they use the door. But either way, someone has to go over the top. “What a great explanation of the rules, Sean Mooney!” notes Superstar. Well, they’re trying I guess. They really couldn’t convince Gorilla to take two hours and hold this nonsense together? Andre finishes choking him out and goes for the door, but Hulk stops him and stomps him down. “Oh, this is a gruesome fight!” notes Superstar while Andre does a bearhug from his knees and gets nowhere with it. So Andre drops an elbow on him, but Hulk does some kind of a headlock in the corner as this is just awful and getting worse. Andre pulls off a turnbuckle and runs Hulk into that before headbutting him down to bust him open. Don’t worry, it’s not shoot blood like Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar. Andre tries to walk out and Hulk clings pathetically to his boot. So then Hogan decides to make the comeback with a clothesline, which somehow puts Andre down long enough for the legdrop. At this point Heenan runs in and Hulk beats on him while Andre teases climbing out of the cage. Andre could barely take the bump from the clothesline at this point, who’s he kidding? And then Hulk brings him down, beats up Bobby one more time, and climbs out of the cage to win at 9:52. This made their WM4 match look like Omega v. Okada. -*
And then the announcers wrap it up from their green screen. I will say, this had more of a big show feel than even Wrestlemania did that year, at least. It started out well but there’s just not much here unless they release the Snyder Cut on the Network with the full show.