I gotta say, I really think the white gear looks sharp. Less iconic, sure, but that’s a good look.
Welcome back to more Dream Matches! This time I take a look at the first run of Hulk Hogan in the WWF, as he wrestles as a heel against the World Champion, Bob Backlund! This one is a good look at how much time you can waste to reach 30 minutes… but has one absolute motherfucker of a feat of strength from Bob Backlund, and is a true must-see.
Then it’s a look at two Harlem Heat vs. Cactus Jack & Maxx Payne matches! Cactus vs. Booker is a match we didn’t see a lot of given the ways their careers went, so that’s kinda interesting, never mind a rare shot of Payne, who didn’t seem to be around for long. The last appearance of the short-lived BattleKat in the WWF as he takes on The Barbarian! And then the “Best of Well Dunn” continues, as Steven Dunn gets “tag guy as singles jobber” duties against Duke “The Dumpster” Droese!
WWF WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
BOB BACKLUND vs. HULK HOGAN:
* Oh yes, it’s Hulk Hogan in his pre-“Rock ‘n’ Wrestling” era self as a nasty heel challenging the World Champion, Bob Backlund. Hogan looks so, so damn young compared to even a few years later, still sporting a receding hairline but having a long blond mane. And damn, I LOVE those all-white trunks & boots- the yellow is so iconic and stands out more, but this is such an eye-popping look. Bob’s in the usual red trunks, and gets a HUGE reaction from this Philadelphia crowd, though at least one “Heel Fan” is heard loudly booing on camera.
Hogan shockingly accepts Bob’s handshake to start (!), but shoves him back from various grapples- he gets a rear waistlock, but perfectly sells Bob outmaneuvering him, going all “woah woah woah” and flailing around like Bob’s little crawl-scoot is amazing acrobatics. He takes some comedy trips and bails while the crowd digs into him, and stalls before coming back with a test of strength that eats up a few minutes of time, booting Backlund to keep him from fighting up, but Bob rolls back and trips him up again. Hogan puts Bob up top but nearly gets swatted trying to slug him, and Bob holds a vicegrip headlock for FIVE MINUTES, doing a few sequences but going back to it, Hogan escaping with a slam & elbow but Bob no-sells and does his own. Hogan blocks a shoulderblock but Bob dekes him out by rolling him up next time, and Hulk finally gets out of a 1.5 minute headlock with a backbreaker to FINALLY go on offense. He works the back but only gets a 1-count, then works on the arm in slow manner (eventually just doing the “hold it under your armpit” time-waster). Bob slams him into a double-down but eats a knee and we’re back to the arm. Bob forearms out and hits a shoulderblock, but Hogan hiptosses him back to the arm- GOODIE.
But then, in one of the goddamndest strength feats I’ve ever seen, Bob rolls onto his feet while Hogan’s on his back, and proceeds to DEADLIFT HIM, hoisting him from the mat up onto his shoulder, then runs him over to the top rope, setting him there and slapping him! Holy shit! Incensed, Hogan charges into a slam & dropkick, but reverses a whip and catches him with a lethal Bearhug, then a top-tier move of his. Bob is immediately in danger, first thrashing around to try and escape, then slumping down, then falling to the mat and letting Hogan get counts on him- he fights up, gets locked back in, but finally manages to push Hogan’s head down and piledrive him! He’s selling too much to get more than a 2-count, though, and they’re in a double-down, Bob leaping onto Hogan’s knees and making it worse. Both are exhausted, and Hogan hits a big vertical suplex for two. Backlund blocks another and gets his own for two, Hogan rolling over for two as well. Bob misses a legdrop and takes an airplane spin, both flopping down, but Bob headbutts Hogan and gets his own spin, putting both on the floor with a safe bump- Bob airplane spins Hogan out there, but stupidly rolls him into the ring and falls down himself, letting Hogan win by Count-Out at (28:58).
A completely bizarre match, as it’s essentially two guys lying in two different holds for the duration, only making the barest effort to switch positions or look like they’re fighting. I mean, compare this to contemporary NWA or AWA stuff where Brisco, Bockwinkel or Flair are chain-wrestling and doing catch-as-catch-can realistic reversals, and you have this where they just hold a headlock for something like 7 minutes of the match, sometimes sliding into the pinning predicament or doing a brief fight-up. Flair/Steamboat would do long headlock sequences, but were way more mobile about it and would use other moves pretty quickly. And the booking of Hogan is bizarre- dude’s like 6’6″ legit and hugely muscular, and he’s doing cartoon bumps and pratfalls off of Bob and looking like a goon. It’s a testament to the cardio of both (especially the huge Hogan), but I can see why Meltzer and other “Smart Fans” were hating on this style back then, as it’s largely just “pick some holds and work them” all match long.
Still, though, everyone would be talking about Bob’s ridiculous feat of strength there (especially that late in the match, and be buying tickets to see Bob get some revenge for this cheap loss.
Rating: *3/4 (ridiculously milked for time, putting three submissions out there for about 18 minutes combined, then doing extended selling and more- really weak compared to NWA/All Japan stuff from this time period- the work around them was very good but HOLY COW)
Payne was around for a bit in the 1990s but didn’t leave much impact. Most I’ve read of him was a shoot interview where he tried to take credit for the whole Attitude Era because “I told Vince to do that!”.
HARLEM HEAT (Kane & Kole) vs. CACTUS JACK & MAXX PAYNE:
(WCW Worldwide, Nov 27th 1993)
* I’ve had this one on the docket since I first found the “Wrestling Classics” channel and their ass-ton of Worldwide matches. These guys fought a few times close together- Cactus & Payne (the future Man Mountain Rock, here with an LSD-rocker’s stare) were a new tag team at this point, while Harlem Heat were still going by their old names. Cactus is in all black with random animal-fur stapled onto the collar and sides, Payne is in the “ECW Special” (out of shape guy hiding his physique behind a black t-shirt & baggy pants) and the Heat are in black tights and black & red SHIRTS for some reason. Cactus & Payne are the FACES, much to Jesse Ventura’s bewilderment (“who I consider to be the two UGLIEST men ever to step into wrestling!”).
Cactus & Kane (Stevie Ray) slug it out, then Cactus lights up BOTH Heat members and does his “Bang Bang!”, then bites Kole (Booker) out of an armbar and Payne no-sells a shoulderblock and pinballs Kole with his own. Kane suckers him via a test of strength then nails him from behind with Kole’s distraction, and Kole axehandles him off the apron. Double-boot gets two and Payne gets brutalized with double-teams, choking and kneedrops. Kole’s spinning forearm sets up a comeback cutoff (w/ Cactus getting a false tag) into the PROPER comeback, as Payne hits a double clothesline, but just kinda flops over and doesn’t “sell” so much as look dazed. Kane cuts off the tag and chinlocks him, then clotheslines to stop another comeback, but Kole comes off the top and nails his partner! Hot tag sees Cactus light them up with punches and clotheslines (including his “catch the boot into a spinning clothesline” one that DDP swiped), and the Heat are reversed into each other and the Double-Arm DDT finishes at (8:48). Wow, wasn’t expecting a clean pin!
Solid “Formula Tag Match”, with Harlem Heat managing to brawl and shake things up a bit to keep it from getting dull. Payne isn’t much of a face in peril, though, just kind of blankly taking everything and slumping over. I guess he DOES look like a guy who’s tripping balls, but it’s not exactly Ricky Morton. He doesn’t even fight up properly for the trio of “comeback” spots! Cactus was adequate as a brawler hitting his stuff, but didn’t get much time to shine.
Rating: **1/4 (perfectly fine TV formula tag match)
HARLEM HEAT (Kane & Kole) vs. CACTUS JACK & MAXX PAYNE:
(WCW Worldwide, Jan. 23rd 1994)
* A rematch from a few months later (knowing WCW, filmed on the same night).
Kane takes shots at Payne, who is so spaced out he sells nothing and just kicks his ass- Cactus bites and suplexes him, then dumps him and Payne backdrops him onto Kane on the floor. Larry Z puts over how it’s impossible to prepare for these lunatics as Cactus easily avoids a comeback and clotheslines Kole over the top rope. But Kane promptly nukes him from the apron and a double-team clothesline sets up the heat segment- chinlocks and quick tags go for a minute but he gets Kole coming off the top and hits the Double-Arm DDT for a double-down- man the fans are just bored as hell; this must be a long taping. That gets two, and Payne’s in with headbutts- Kole hits his spinning forearm on Cactus and rolls him up, but he’s illegal- Payne backdrops Kane over the top and rolls KOLE up, and that’s the win at (6:02)! Man the Heat jobbing to these guys just kinda looks funny- I forget they’re still rising at this point.
Pretty short, basic match here- way more stuff from the faces with a heat segment comprised of just simple chinlocks, and then the finish comes in seconds off the hot tag. Pretty short, too.
Rating: ** (inoffensive but short)
THE BARBARIAN vs. BATTLEKAT:
(WWF Prime Time, Dec. 10th 1990)
* Yes, it’s BATTLEKAT once again! This is his final appearance on TV, as they gave up on the gimmick after only a couple matches. Barbarian is oddly in the ring to start with, with BATTLEKAT getting theme music, doing a ridiculous “nyeaaaaahhhh!” cat imitation and goofy “1980s dorky father in a sitcom” dance on the way to the ring. His orange & purple singlet is garish but fits the timeline, but the kitty mask is a no-go. I don’t know my 1990-era jobbers that well, but apparently the story is Brady Boone debuted the gimmick, but immediately left the company, so his first opponent as BattleKat, Bob Bradley, was given the gimmick instead. All he did was beat Boris Zhukov (in a match where the commentators buried him) and a few jobbers, do a tag loss to Demolition, and then he was sent out here.
BattleKat gets tossed down, then evades Barbarian- hey does someone shout “Bob Bradley!” in the stands?- he lands chops, a dropkick and the worst Mongolian chops I’ve EVER seen (not helped by the camera angle pointing up as he does them in the corner), and Barbarian just doesn’t sell them and hits an inverted atomic drop, then throws shots at the downed Kat, whom Mooney & Lord Alfred just start burying on commentary. “Not much affect” “Not at all phased- look at him!” “This kitty is not doing to well” “No this cat is getting SKINNED quite successfully here”, and Barbarian hits a weak shoulderbreaker and chops him, slowly and uncharismatically doing whatever, and Kat comes back with an awful backflip elbow that has no momentum at all, and he comes off the second rope into a powerslam reversal. Barbarian’s Flying Clothesline finishes at (3:31).
A very slow, plodding squash, Barbarian showing why he never really moved forward as a wrestler, as he just has a blank expression on his face as he slowly takes BattleKat apart. Guys like Sid & stuff always grimaced, roared, looked angry, etc.- you have to show CHARISMA. Bradley apparently not having any idea how to draw attention to himself without looking like an idiot also harmed the match. The commentators were obviously told to just bury the gimmick as well, and this was the last we saw of Bradley as BattleKat.
Rating: 3/4* (bad, plodding squash)
DUKE “THE DUMPSTER” DROESE vs. STEVEN DUNN (w/ Harvey Whippleman):
(WWF RAW, Feb. 20th 1995)
* Yes, they ran THIS MATCH on WWF RAW once. I hope this was the main event of a TV program (*checks* alas, it was Shawn/Bulldog). Duke’s in later-stage gear that I don’t remember- a navy blue version of his garbageman gear, but his name written in white down the legs. I… wow, he lasted until mid-1996, never mind. Dunn’s in neon yellow over black, of course still with the thong.
Duke easily overpowers Dunn to start, no-selling shoulderblocks and hitting a press slam, but Harvey distracts him and Dunn hits his snap suplex & running forearm thing. A generic heel beatdown ensues as the crowd could not possibly care less about this, with Dunn throwing punches and cutting off comebacks as soon as they start. Finally Dunn runs into a boot and Duke clotheslines him and screams “That’s it!!!! It’s time… to take out the trash!” (the camera finds the only six excited fans in the whole building, who pump their fists and chant “Duke! Duke! Duke! Duke!”) and hits the Trash Compactor (gutwrench powerslam) for the win (3:55). Dunn grabs Duke’s trash can outside, so Duke runs out to beat him up and dumps “garbage” (crumped up paper… I mean, come on! At least find a cliched banana peel or something!) on him.
Just dreadful- the entire match was a heatless beatdown, then Dumpster gets his foot up and hits two more moves for the finish. Like, that’s barely even a match! It’s lazy from Duke, and left Dunn to do everything, and it’s not like he has the moveset to draw much heat in only a couple of minutes. And it doesn’t really put Duke over very much when a bottom-tier guy like Dunn can control him for so long- they’d have been better off not doing a heat sequence and instead trading stuff.
Rating: 3/4* (the most plain, generic beating you’ve ever seen leading to 3 moves and the babyface win)