The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Old School – Copps Coliseum 03.13.88
By Scott Keith on 20th September 2022
The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Old School – Copps Coliseum 03.13.88
Taped from Hamilton, ON
Your hosts are Craig DeGeorge & Nick Bockwinkel. OK then.
I have no specific information since I don’t live in Ontario, but I’m assuming these shows were taped and aired on CHCH TV and then cut up for Prime Time Wrestling? Anyway, they are at least NOT Superstars shows from 1995, so I’ll take what I can get as far as classic content additions to the Network. I always liked the Copps Coliseum and it’s too bad they had such a nice hockey arena but never were able to score an NHL team like they wanted. Hell, we even almost got the St. Louis Blues here in Saskatoon at one point!
SD Jones v. Johnny V
True story: This was going to lead to a tag team between them called VD Jones, but cooler heads prevailed. Poor Johnny was decidedly on the downswing of his WWF career at this point, having put over Brutus Beefcake 8 million times and gotten just as many haircuts, and now he’s just kind of doing opening match jobs on the way out. SD quickly catches him with a slam, but Johnny runs him into the turnbuckles, but SD shrugs that off because SCIENCE and black people. Bockwinkel, meanwhile, relates a question about being asked about what a turnbuckle feels like, and basically launches into the complete history of turnbuckle manufacturing and his personal recollections of every turnbuckle he’s ever taken over 40 years. “It feels kind of like a boxing glove” is the short answer for the rest of us. It’s a shame that Nick passed away before the era of seven hour Wrestlemanias. They could have just given him a jumping off point in the pre-show and he’d be wrapped up by the Roman Reigns match. Meanwhile they fight to the floor and Johnny runs him into the post to take over, and slams him back into the ring. You know, Johnny is pretty old here, but I just watched John Kreese kick the shit out of a bunch of bikers in prison on Cobra Kai, so now I’m more convinced than ever of Valiant’s chances here to pull one out! SD makes the comeback and runs Johnny into the turnbuckles. Valiant goes up and gets slammed off for two, and SD finishes him with a headbutt at 7:00. This was every inoffensive opening match in the 80s that you’ve ever seen. *1/2 It wasn’t good in any particular manner but there was a clear babyface and heel and the crowd liked it just fine.
The Bolsheviks v. The Killer Bees
Were I ever to live out my nightmare of building a time machine and then getting lost in the timestream, I would at least be able to orient my way back to 1988 by searching for a wrestling show where the Killer Bees were facing the Bolsheviks on a WWF house show. Yup, I would say to myself, we are definitely in 1988. Blair fights off both dirty commies and chases Boris to the floor, and Brunzell comes in and works the arm while Bockwinkel ponders the deeper meaning of tag team wrestling, which is basically “How much do you let your partner suffer before saving him?” If your partner is Dino Bravo, the answer is A LOT. Because he’s the worst. Boris switches in and the Bees keep working on the arm with him and Nick is really laying down the tag team philosophy in depth on commentary here. It’s a fascinating look into the underlying psychology behind two guys dressed as bees facing a pair of guys pretending to be Russians. Speaking of which, the time is right for a really good Russian heel again, I think. Strike while the iron is hot, before Putin is forced to surrender and loses all his heat. Hopefully they’ve take over the Russian territory and everyone in Russia will get perogies and cabbage rolls as consolation from the Ukranian reserve army of babas. Blair gets cut off and worked over by the heels, and Volkoff gets an atomic drop, which gives Bockwinkel a chance to explain the origins of the move and history of the atomic energy research dating back to the 1800s that inspired the name, complete with appendix and timeline. Meanwhile Boris goes to a bearhug on Blair, but Brian slams out and Boris falls on top for two. Volkoff cuts him off again and puts the boots to him, and Zukhov gets two off that. Sadly, Boris clotheslines his own partner off the apron, but they take the ref and it’s a false tag. So Blair fights back with a flying forearm on Volkoff and makes the hot tag to Jumping Jim, and he cleans house, giving Boris the big foot in old bread basket. Dropkick gets two and he gets the sleeper on Boris, but Blair beats on Volkoff and the ref hauls him out. This allows Volkoff to nail Brunzell from behind and he steals the pin at 11:24. Again, this wasn’t GOOD in any particular sense, but this crowd was just so amped for the whole thing that they worked up to the crowd’s excitement level and it was fine. **1/4
Dino Bravo v. Koko B. Ware
Why is the bird “Frankie B. Ware”? Shouldn’t it just be “Frankie Ware” if we’re assigning him the same last name? It’s not like Koko’s last name is “B. Ware”. Koko quickly chases Bravo to the floor with a headbutt and Bravo runs away like Koko is a mafioso, but then thinks better of it and continues the match. Don’t do anything on MY account, Dino. Bravo uses his array of clubbing forearms to put Koko on the floor. Back in the ring, Bravo with a piledriver (IRONY!) on Koko, while Craig mansplains the irony of Koko B. Ware taking a piledriver to us, the viewer. Bravo with a clothesline for two, which looks like one of those Hasbro wrestling figures twisting stiffly at the waist because they don’t have any arm articulation. Granted that’s a step up from Bravo’s usual move delivery that’s akin to an immovable LJN figure. Koko comes back with a bodypress for two while the ref is distracted and Craig is like “Oh man, he had him pinned for an 8 count there!” And then Bockwinkel actually makes a very astute point, noting that we don’t KNOW that Bravo wouldn’t have kicked out, because wrestlers are instinctively trained to kick out after hearing two slaps of the mat from the referee’s hand, and if you don’t hear those slaps, then you don’t need to kick out. In fact, he notes, very often you’ll instinctively kick out even you’re only semi-conscious because it’s so drilled into your brain as a part of the job. And in fact, we have actually seen that in real life, where a wrestler was concussed and the referee is trying to just count them out and go home early, but the wrestler kicks out at two anyway because that’s such an ingrained part of their brain. Anyway Koko makes the comeback with dropkicks and Bravo falls backwards like a mannequin, which gets two for Koko. But then Koko misses a blind charge and Bravo hits the devastating side suplex to finish at 8:00. I’m tempted to give it an extra star for Frenchie groping Dino’s man-boobs in celebration but I’d like to think I’m better than that. * I mean I’m NOT, but I’d like to think it.
Greg Valentine v. Brutus Beefcake
Man I bet these two poor bastards were getting pretty sick of wrestling each other by this point, approaching the one year anniversary of their breakup. Beefer hauls him in from the floor to start and runs him into the turnbuckles, then drops an elbow on the inner thigh after doing the leg split bit. Brutus goes up with a forearm from the middle rope and Craig notes that the Hammer is looking more like the Nail tonight. Well, you know what they say, when all you have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail. Beefcake with a pair of atomic drops and Valentine does a wacky sell of those with a Flair Flop as they’re clearly in goofy house show match mode and the crowd is just eating it all up like crazy. Which is fine, they’ve got a bunch of excited kids in the crowd and they’re all loving it, so go ahead and play to them. Beefcake slugs away in the corner for the 10 count, but Valentine pokes him in the eyes and Beefcake is swinging at air, which allows Jimmy Hart to get some cheapshots from the apron. Greg beats on the throat and goes up with a double axehandle, and he struts for the crowd as they boo him out of the building. Man, these guys must be LOVING these reactions, as they can just do all the bare minimum stuff and take the night off and still get huge heat. That’s the ultimate goal of wrestling! Hammer with a chinlock and he chokes Beefcake down and tosses him, so Beefcake chases after Jimmy and that results in getting clobbered by Valentine from behind. Back in the ring, Valentine returns the favor with his own questionable shot to the inner thigh and that gets two. He goes for the figure-four, but Beefcake yanks on the trunks to escape and makes the comeback, basically doing nothing but sending the crowd into the stratosphere. This sets up the sleeper, but Jimmy Hart runs in for the DQ at 11:22. Again, this would have been a terrible match in a normal setting but the crowd was just so crazy for everything that it worked perfectly for what it was and they didn’t need to do anything else. ***
Noriyo Tateno v. Leilani Kai
Not sure why they went with a singles match instead of a rematch from the Rumble here. Tateno works the arm, but Kai takes her down for one and catapults her into the corner. She tries a bodyscissors on the mat, but Tateno reverses her into a camel clutch and then her own bodyscissors. Bockwinkel notes that it really shows that you have to “really be aware of all your locks and keys” when you’re learning submission holds. Man, Nick was way ahead of his time as a commentator, I have to say. I enjoy busting on his verbose nature, but he makes some really smart observations that make a ton of sense. Tateno goes to a deathlock and works on that and unfortunately they’ve kind of managed to dampen this insanely hot crowd quite a lot. Tateno goes up and misses a dropkick, and Kai goes to work on the back. Tateno bails and Judy Martin gets some cheapshots on the floor while we learn that Martin has a leg injury, which is why it’s a singles match and such a drag as a result. Kai chokes her out on the ropes and a slam gets two. Kai with more choking and then Martin adds more choking from the floor. Tateno comes back with some slams for two while Nick explains the psychology of making the comeback, and Tateno does just that. Clothesline gets two. Double underhook suplex gets two. Tateno misses a cross body and Kai gets a northern lights suplex for two. Tateno with a fisherman’s suplex but the ref is distracted by various people. So she goes up instead with a flying clothesline for two, but Jimmy Hart puts the foot on the ropes this time. More interference from the heels and Yamazaki can’t take any more of that, resulting Tateno running Kai into Jimmy for the pin at 13:15. This took a good while to get going but the finishing minutes were GREAT. ***1/4
Butch Reed & One Man Gang v. George Steele & Don Muraco
The babyfaces steal Gang’s jean jacket and double-team it with elbows, which is a FEDERAL CRIME in Canada so they better hope the RCMP wasn’t watching this show. Also, a historic moment as George bites One Man Gang’s arm to chase him out of the ring, which is historic because it marks the only time anyone will ever compare Gang to Kenny Omega.
Actually I should just shut down this rant right now because I’m not topping that one.
Anyway, George “Ace” Steele continues chomping on Gang’s arm in the corner (IT WORKS ON SO MANY LEVELS!), and Reed comes in to save, so Muraco works on his arm. Holy shit Muraco was cut up here. He chases Reed to the floor with a hiptoss and then goes to comfort George on the apron for a bit, and they mock Butch by calling him Bruce. Reed gets double-teamed by the faces and goes to tag out, but Gang politely declines and offers moral support instead. The man got BITTEN! Can you blame him for not wanting to tag in? So Reed takes a swing at Muraco and hits Gang by mistake, and things remain chilly between Team Slick while Muraco and Animal hug in their corner and do team-building exercises. Over to Gang, and as feared, Steele goes back to the biting, but Muraco comes in and gets caught in the heel corner and double-teamed. So they beat on Muraco and choke him out and do the chinlocking as you’d expect. Reed drops elbows on Muraco for two and goes back to the chinlock, but Muraco fights out while this nonsense match has actually got the crowd going again. Reed and Muraco collide and George gets a tag behind the ref’s back and it’s BONZO GONZO. But the faces collide this time and Animal gets booted out of the ring, leaving Don by himself. So they double-team him while the ref just lets this go on and on, and FINALLY Steele hits his mark by tripping up Gang and allowing Muraco to roll up Reed for the pin at 17:42. They took FOREVER to set up that dumb finish. ½*
Hulk Hogan & Bam Bam Bigelow v. Ted Dibiase & Virgil
The babyfaces clear the ring to start and Hulk slugs away on Dibiase in the corner and follows with a corner clothesline before running him into Bigelow’s head. Bam Bam comes in and they pinball Ted in the corner. Hulk takes him to the various corners and chokes Ted out on the ropes, but turnabout is fair play as Andre saves his boss and chokes Hogan out in turn from the floor. Dibiase goes to work in the corner and Virgil comes in with a headbutt and adds a clothesline for two. Andre adds more choking from the floor and Virgil does his own, and then Dibiase completes the trifecta of choking from the apron. This gives us a nice subtle spot as Dibiase hits a pair of corner clotheslines while Andre holds the tights and prevents Hogan from getting away. That gets two. Dibiase with the chinlock sleeper while Nick Bockwinkel explains the science behind it on commentary, and then adds that Dibiase is doing the hold like he is “to be a jerk about it”. Meanwhile Andre bullies the timekeeper and demands that the bell be rung. I’m just saying, I’d do what the Giant says. Man says “ring the bell”, I’m asking “How many times?” Finally Hogan escapes the heels and makes the hot tag to Bam Bam, and he runs over Dibiase but gets tripped up by Andre. This allows Virgil to come in for more abuse and choking and they somehow manage to completely fuck up an irish whip into the corner spot. Bigelow comes back with a press slam and elbow for two, but Dibiase saves and accidentally drops the elbow on his own bodyguard. Hogan drops the leg for good measure and Bigelow finishes Virgil with the big splash at 10:00. And then Andre lays waste to the babyfaces, but Hogan throws chairs into the ring and chases him off. Virgil looked like one of the worst professional wrestlers alive in this match, but it was a lot of fun. **1/2 Hulk and Bigelow do some posing afterwards and this probably should have been a thing that drew money in the near future, but it just wasn’t gonna happen for Bigelow for various reasons.
Overall, a very fun show that proved to be the unexpected source of a DANK MEME for me, so that’s a recommendation from here.