From the pages of WWF Magazine… this week, we look back at an issue that went to press in February of 1987 that sold for $2.50 in the U.S. and $3.25 in Canada and get bonus coverage from the next issue as well. With a cover featuring Hulk Hogan, we learn all about his shocking loss ending his four year championship run, with a special interview with Jack Tunney to sort it all out. And if you think you know the whole story, you’re wrong. (Oh, and there’s also an article that accidentally gives away the winner of the upcoming WWF championship tournament scheduled for WrestleMania IV.) Let’s get to it.
I’m going to jump right to the big news: on February 5, 1988, Hogan and Andre battled in a primetime title match on NBC as 33 million viewers watched on. It was wrestling’s equivalent of the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, with even non-wrestling fans tuning in to see what was going to happen.
This night is also infamous for Hulk Hogan giving a promo in the back wearing the WrestleMania III-style championship belt before walking out to the arena wearing the WrestleMania IV-style championship belt, as the interview was taped earlier in the day. The promo was nonetheless awesome, with Hogan talking about Virgil, DiBiase, and Andre in turn, acting as if he has all the bases covered and neglecting to even consider the one other man involved in the contest, the one who would prove to be the pivotal figure. Here’s Scott’s review of the match:
The SmarK Rant for The Main Event, Hulk vs. Andre
Live from Indianapolis with Vince and Jesse
Hulk cleans house on DiBiase and Virgil to start and then slugs away on Andre, but can’t knock him down. Hulk tries a corner clothesline, but still can’t punch him down, even after spinning his arm around like Popeye! That would KILL a normal man! He finally tries to go up, but Andre slams him off and then misses a headbutt. Andre chokes him out and stomps him, then puts him down with the headbutts. Big boot puts Hulk on the floor, and Virgil sends him back in for some more choking. Hogan fights up and slugs away in the corner, then gets a flying clothesline and drops the leg. The ref is busy with Virgil, and Andre headbutts Hogan from behind and suplexes him for the pin and the title at 9:04, despite Hogan’s shoulder being up at one. So Andre immediately surrenders the title to Ted DiBiase as Hogan cries instead of manning up and doing something about it. Much better than their Wrestlemania match, but that’s not saying much. **
Rock Star Gary: If this show isn’t THE best of the Main Event series, it certainly ranks near the top. Due to the historical title change/switch, this show sets the foundation for WrestleMania IV on March 27 and is a must-see for ANY wrestling fan.
Brian Bayless: Andre was in poor physical health, and the finish was sloppy, however, the evil referee angle was brilliant and I thought that Vince and Jesse sold the angle well on commentary. Also, what a promo from Hogan at the end. He acted like a loved one died over losing the WWF World Title, making it seem like the most important thing in his life.
Miko363: How about the Hulkster almost murdering Earl Hebner by overshooting the heels on the throw out of the ring?
BrayQuiet: FYI: DiBiase wrestled the next day at Boston Garden on a card televised by NESN (New England Sports Network) where he was wearing the belt and was announced as the champion.
WWF Magazine sells the crowd’s reaction to Hogan’s title loss like Bruno’s loss to Ivan Koloff, which isn’t far off the mark. For a lot of us, Hogan was the only champion we ever knew, and it was surreal to see Andre and DiBiase with the belt in turn. Of course, this was all followed by Tunney’s ruling, which will get to in a bit, where the title was declared vacant.
Let’s move on to Around the Ring by Ed Ricciuti. Ed says Wrestlemania IV is just around the corner, and that the annual show has become an institution, an event of international significance, and a spectacle that has set a new standard in sports and entertainment. He says that this time, as with Wrestlemania III, all eyes will be on Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, and mat experts expect their confrontation will decide the championship tournament. “Andre has manhandled Hulk twice in less than half a year, demonstrating overwhelming superiority over the former champion.” (Note to Ed: they’re both former champions.) “But Hulk Hogan’s spirit is unquenchable. His body may be battered, but not his will. He has vowed revenge and to stop the Giant once and for all.” Ed then moves on to the Strike Force vs. Demolition matchup and says Strike Force will have to keep moving while Demolition tries to box them in. “It will be an interesting meeting of contrasting ring styles.” He then talks about Randy Savage vs. Honky Tonk Man, which is odd since that match was no longer booked at press time. “Theirs is a bitter enmity that will only end when one of these two premier wrestlers is destroyed by the other.” (For what it’s worth, in mid-February, Dave Meltzer wrote that Brutus Beefcake vs. Greg Valentine in a hair versus hair match was etched in stone for WrestleMania IV.)
Next up, Fan Forum, where fans have written in to say who the most powerful wrestler is. Many say it’s Outback Jack. “The big, good-natured man from the back country Down Under has developed a solid and loyal core of fan supporters.” Matt from Palmyra, New York says, “Outback Jack is the most powerful person in the WWF.” Sandy from Aurora, Minnesota concurs and says she loves how Outback Jack sets a good example for young people. (Was there ever a guy who got more ink for doing so little than Outback Jack? He’s a monthly fixture in this magazine while never wrestling on pay per view, SNME, or any other significant showcases.) On the other hand, Mary-Jen Henion of Schenectady, New York says Rick Rude is the strongest. “He’s got the strength, the body, and the ability.” Nancy from Scotia, New York disagrees. “I think the most powerful person in the WWF is the Ultimate Warrior.” Other choices include Bam Bam Bigelow, Dino Bravo, and Sensational Sherri. We then move on to the subject of wrestlers to watch in 1988. Kimberly from Laurel, Maryland says Randy Savage will win the Intercontinental Championship back at Wrestlemania IV. She also says the Islanders will be tag team champions by June. Others expected to be major players include Bam Bam Bigelow and Ted DiBiase. Finally, we get another story about the WWF bringing two people together. “Hi,” writes in Cathy from Vermont, “I thought you’d like to know what an influence the WWF has on people’s lives. One night while watching a new band in town, I kept noticing the drummer had a Hulk Hogan doll on his drum set. I had to talk to the guy. After the first night of discussing wrestling, we fell in love. In November, for my 25th birthday, he pulled out a Piledriver cassette. Inside was a diamond and the words, ‘Will you marry me?’ Thank you, WWF, for bringing us together.”
Next, WWF List of… favorite finishing moves:
- Rick Martel: the Boston crab
- Brutus Beefcake: cutting hair
- Bam Bam Bigelow: the catapult over the top rope
- Billy Jack Haynes: the full nelson
- Randy Savage: the flying elbow
- Nikolai Volkoff: the bear hug
- Greg Valentine: the figure-four
Newsbreakers! Jack Tunney has announced that there will be an elimination tournament to decide the next World Wrestling Federation Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania IV. “Never before has such a tournament been held for such an important prize.” (What about the 1963 tournament in Rio?) Wrestling experts have made Andre the Giant the favorite, closely followed by Hulk Hogan. (Both have first round byes.) But there are many worthy contenders. The magazine says seven of the men in the tournament are former Tag Team and/or Intercontinental champions. (I don’t think this math checks out. From what I know, Muraco, Steamboat, Valentine, and Savage were former IC/tag team champions at the time, and Hogan, Andre, Duggan, DiBiase, Reed, Bigelow, Gang, Roberts, and Rude were not. However, Hogan and Andre were both former heavyweight champions, and DiBiase held the North American championship, the precursor to the IC belt.) Anyway, for those wondering, the magazine has the brackets as used at WrestleMania itself as opposed to the original brackets that were later tweaked. In fact, let’s look at the two different set of brackets:
The original (above) and the modified (below)
Next, Personality Profile gives us Dino Bravo. He’s the world strongest man, having bench pressed 712 pounds at the Royal Rumble. (No mention is made of Jesse Ventura.) Now he’s being managed by Frenchy Martin.
Okay, now on to serious business, as the magazine interviews Jack Tunney. And y’all need to listen up because, as he did on television, he sets the record straight regarding the WWF title situation. Over the years, fans have changed the narrative to be, “There was so much controversy in The Main Event match between Hogan & Andre and the ensuing fallout where Ted DiBiase bought the belt, Jack Tunney stripped DiBiase of the title and put it up for grabs in a tournament at WrestleMania.” That, in fact, is not what happened, whatever you read on Wikipedia. Tunney explains: while Andre defeated Hulk Hogan by controversial means, Tunney says he can’t overturn the ruling by the referee because in the WWF, the referee’s decisions are final. Now, you may be saying, “But that man wasn’t a real referee!” And I’m guessing a lot of people were saying that to the WWF back in the day, because in the next issue, they actually address it: it turns out that the imposter referee—we’ll call him Earl—was a former professional wrestler who obtained a referee’s license from the Indiana State Athletic Commission. As such, Tunney could not overrule Earl’s decision in Indiana. (Afterward, according to the magazine, Dave Hebner agreed to be fingerprinted, ensuring that Earl will never be allowed to enter a WWF ring again. So that should put the end to any Earl Hebner controversaries in world title matches.) Anyway, after Andre won the title, the Giant said he was surrendering it to DiBiase. Surrendering the championship was a perfectly valid action, as no man can be forced to hold the title against his will. (It’s sort of like how a president can resign, which Nixon did.) So Tunney recognized that. However, the act did not make DiBiase the champion. The rulebook clearly states that the only way to win the title is by pin or submission in a sanctioned match, and DiBiase did neither. When Andre surrendered the title, he vacated the championship. So long story short, Tunney and the board of directors didn’t vacate the championship, Andre did. (Andre screwed Andre.) After Tunney’s explanation, the magazine says to him, “But Andre the Giant did not know the rule. Why didn’t you just ask him to recant his surrender and give the title back to him?” Tunney says, “We couldn’t. The rule says that once a title is surrendered, it no longer belongs to the man who gave it up. Our hands were tied.” (Well, actually… if I’m allowed to play Andre’s lawyer here… Andre didn’t actually surrender the WWF Championship. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear him say “I surrender the world tag team championship.” So I call foul on the whole thing.) The magazine then asks why Tunney didn’t just set up a rematch between Andre and Hogan for the title. Tunney says he and the board considered that, but felt it would unfair to whoever would have been the top contenders who would have been next in line to get a title shot. That said, Hogan and Andre, as the last two champions and now the top two contenders, will receive first round byes. Tunney is then asked why it takes so long for him to make decisions and why he allows the rulebreaking to get so out of hand. He says making the right decisions can’t be done in haste, as he and the board don’t want to act impulsively and make a bad situation worse. But he says he stands by his record, be it suspending the Islanders until they returned Matilda to the British Bulldogs or suspending Danny Davis. As for rulebreakers, “Some wrestlers will resort to any measures. Those actions will not be tolerated.” Tunney is then asked if he’s considered using two referees for important matches. He says he has, but the WWF referees are experts, and he trusts them. He also likes having a backup referee in reserve in case something happens to the one refereeing the match. (Nothing like having two Hebners available, right?) Finally, he’s asked why the former tag team champions, The Hart Foundation, were not given a chance to win back the titles at WrestleMania IV. Tunney says their loss to Strike Force on February 5 on The Main Event dropped them below Demolition in the rankings. However, Tunney continues, it’s likely the Harts will surpass whoever loses the tag title match at WrestleMania and will earn a title shot later in the year. (Perhaps at some sort of late summer pay per view?) On a closing note, Tunney hopes we all enjoy WrestleMania IV.
Next, in Battle of the Titans, we get coverage of the WWF’s January Bunkhouse Brawl, where 30 wrestlers were allowed to wear street clothes to the ring and bring weapons for a battle royal. (Interesting concept!) Ernie Ladd wore football gear. Lanny Poffo wore a suit of armor. Outback jack brought his boomerang. Billy Jack Haynes and Ken Patera brought chain saws. (How could anyone overcome that?) Haynes and Patera, however, left the chainsaws on the timekeeper’s table before entering the ring. (Well, no one ever accused those two of being Rhodes Scholars.) In the end, it came down to Demolition vs. Bam Bam Bigelow, with Bigelow eliminating Smash and then Ax to win.
Speaking of Demolition…
They say they can handle Strike Force at WrestleMania IV and will win the tag team titles. Bruno Sammartino says they might be right. “A lot of fans believe that a title change occurs because the victor is superior to the loser in every way. But this isn’t entirely true. What determines who leaves the ring with the belt? Often it’s timing.” The magazine says “exhausting schedules, endless assaults by hungry contenders and the pressure of holding on to the title can tax champions. Ring observers note this could well make the timing right for Demolition to lift the title from Strike Force. On the other hand, Strike Force isn’t simply comprised of a couple of pretty boys. Martel and Santana are tough a nails too. “What can Ax and Smash do?” asks Santana. “They punch, they kick and they slam. Guess what? Rick and I can do the same thing.” Demolition, however, has a devastating (unnamed to this point) finishing maneuver where one of the leather-clad brutes bends the opponent over a knee and the other hits from the turnbuckles with an elbow. Santana admits this could mean the end, but says, “The sign of a true champion is not letting that happen to you.”
Next, a preview of Hercules vs. The Ultimate Warrior: They’re both strong dudes who think they can win. Hercules has Heenan. Warrior has his little warriors.
We move on to coverage of Savage vs. Honky from The Main Event. Savage won the match but not the title. (Hopefully things work out okay for this guy.)
Next, we recap the Bulldogs/Islanders feud, where the Islanders dognapped Matilda before returning her. At WrestleMania IV, Heenan will team up with the Islanders to take on the British Bulldogs and Koko B. Ware. Word is Davey and Dynamite have put Matilda through an intensive attack training program to prepare for the match. (Yikes, that sounds bad. And I hate when animals are used as props in wrestling.)
Next, Private Eye catches up with Elizabeth at home and visiting the supermarket…
Oh, and casually they mention that she’s the manager of World Wrestling Federation Champion Randy Savage… which was a major mistake since this issue hit newsstands before Savage actually won the title. (Oops.)
We move on to WWF Lowdown, where we’re reminded that Bam Bam Bigelow has won two battle royals in the past few months and looks to be a major contender heading into WrestleMania IV tournament. Meanwhile, Rude has been doing well too, and he says his matchup against Jake Roberts in the tournament is nothing more than a warmup. Meanwhile, a newcomer who is not in the tournament but who could be a future contender for the title, is Bad News Brown. He prides himself on his instincts as a gutter fighter and promises bad news for his opponents. In other news, Dino Bravo, who has chosen Frenchy Martin has his new manager, is refusing to speak English on television, only giving interviews in French. (What was with that pairing anyway? You take a wrestler with no interview skills and put him with a manager with no interview skills?) Lastly, word is that Peggy Sue is jealous of Elizabeth and is worried she has her eyes on The Honky Tonk Man.
Wrap Up: Freddie Blassie, Superstar Billy Graham, Hillbilly Jim, and Oliver Humperdink visited the Special Olympics Carnival in Hartford, Connecticut on January 4. Hillbilly Jim and Graham also attended the Independent Television convention in Los Angeles on January 6 and 7th. The magazine notes that these two events have led to speculation that Graham may be taking Hillbilly Jim under his wing. Graham says that hanging around him will lead to any wrestler becoming better simply by osmosis. (Only he doesn’t actually use the word “osmosis.”) And finally, Randy Savage and Elizabeth stopped by at the Metro Toronto Convention Center on January 8th, and Ricky Steamboat and Paul Orndorff shared tips on weight training and signed autographs at Detroit Auto-Rama on January 10. Now you’re up to date!
In Wrestler’s Rebuttal, Ted DiBiase says he was cheated, and what matters is money, not Tunney…
And here’s the crossword puzzle…
And finally, Caught in the Act features Elizabeth…
Next, let’s get right into the May, 1988 issue, with serves as a “Part 2” to the previous issue…
In Fan Forum, fans continue to write in to say who the most powerful wrestler is, with answers including Andre the Giant, Ken Patera, Nikolai Volkoff, Don Muraco, and Brutus Beefcake. As a followup for best manager, Robert from Acres, Pennsylvania makes a case for Elizabeth, citing her actions on Saturday Night’s Main Event that led to the meeting of the Megapowers.
In Personality Profile, we’re introduced to Sam Houston, a lively, lanky Texan who likes wide-open spaces, piclup trucks and country dancing. He’s currently got his sights set on Dangerous Danny Davis, but the magazine suggests that Houston could rapidly move up the ranks and leave Davis far behind.
Next, an Interview with Bam Bam Bigelow. He says he hopes Hulk Hogan wins the tournament at WrestleMania IV, and he knows DiBiase won’t even make it past the first round. As for himself, he’ll just do the best he can.
We move onto coverage of The 1988 Royal Rumble…
3.3 million homes tuned in to see the modified Battle Royal on January 24 with Duggan winning the event.
Next, an article about Matilda, with some managers like Bobby Heenan and Slick saying she’s dangerous and should be banned. Strike Force and the Young Stallions disagree, saying they support the British Bulldogs and Matilda is man’s best friend. Jack Tunney says Matilda only attacks when provoked, and as such, she will continue to be allowed at ringside.
We then get more on the Royal Rumble event, with coverage of Dino Bravo’s bench press record, as well as coverage of the Jumping Bomb Angels, who won the Ladies Tag Team championship.
And here are more photos of Elizabeth at home…
WWF Lowdown: George Steele is said to be lonely and seeking some sort of sidekick. (Perhaps something goofy we can sell in the merchandise catalogue?) The Bolsheviks have been watching the primaries for the presidential election with interest and have not been impressed. They don’t understand why candidates have to kiss babies, attend barbeques and court voters. Jimmy Hart got Danny Davis a spot on the WrestleMania IV card in the battle royal by playing hardball: he said the Hart Foundation and Davis were a packaged deal, and the WWF could either have all of them or none of them. Outback Jack recently celebrated the bicentennial of his native Australia. “I’m so proud to be Australian, I could bust,” he says. Lastly, Peggy Sue, Honky Tonk’s girlfriend, is reportedly upset with all the coverage Elizabeth is getting in WWF Magazine.
WWF Wrap Up: The Main Event scored a 15.2 rating with a 25 share, easily winning its timeslot. Meanwhile, The Survivor Series, January’s Saturday Night’s Main Event, and The Royal Rumble all posted impressive numbers themselves. Bobby Heenan recently appeared at a taping of Late Night With David Letterman. Superstar Billy Graham was appointed Honorable Chairman of the London Sportsmen’s Dinner. (He says Don Muraco will be the next WWF champion.) In response to a letter writing campaign by the Bulldogs, the WWF received thousands of letters supporting Matilda after her recent ordeal. And lastly, Hillbilly Jim recently visited Flint, Michigan to talk about Coliseum Home Video’s collection of mat classics.
In Wrestler’s Rebuttal, Jesse Ventura says his First Amendment rights were violated when Jack Tunney censored his rants about The Main Event in the immediate aftermath. (Tunney issued a gag order, saying no one was allowed to talk about The Main Event until he had sorted out the events. In reality, this storyline was concocted to cover up the fact that the shows fans were watching in the weeks following The Main Event were taped beforehand.) I should note here that Jesse is wrong to say his First Amendment rights were violated. The First Amendment only prohibits the government from restricting speech. It does not apply to Jack Tunney or any person or business unaffiliated with the government.
And here’s the Crossword puzzle…
And finally, Caught in the Act…
That’s all for this week! Join me next week for a look at Pro Wrestling Illustrated where the question’s asked: is the end near for Hulk Hogan?