WWF Saturday Night Main Event #10 (3.14.87) review
Taped: February 21, 1987
Looking back, it’s interesting to see this Mania go-home show be taped so far in advance of the PPV itself. The card was set in stone by the middle of February and everything that followed that was promotional. Then the whole of March is just dedicated to selling tickets. We’re in Detroit, Michigan at the Joe Louis Arena. The Joe Louis was built in 1979 as a replacement for the Olympia and housed the Detroit Red Wings until 2017 when they moved to a new venue. The Joe Louis Arena, named after the famous boxer, was demolished during the pandemic. The WWF would run three Survivor Series at this arena; 1991, 1999 and 2005. We have an enormous 21,000 attendance here and a whopping 11.6 rating on NBC. Wrestling was still huge in 1987 and they were selling more tickets and doing better business than ever before. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura. The big hook for this show is a battle royal featuring WrestleMania III participants including Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant.
“You broke the rules man, now there are no rules!”
A secondary concern is the IC title match pitting Randy Savage against challenger George Steele, with not only the belt but the SERVICES of Miss Elizabeth on the line. So, we get a very rare solo Liz interview, straight into camera to explain it. “If he wins he also wins me”. Damn.
We start with the hosts and Jesse Ventura went big today. I know the eyes are naturally drawn to the snake jacket, but that hat/shades combo is slick.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Randy Savage (c) vs. George Steele
They’ve done this match before and Savage beat Steele by whacking him with the ring bell. That was after Steele had kidnapped Liz and took her backstage. I’m not sure how they got from there to ‘winner gets Elizabeth’. However, it does allow Elizabeth to get her own entrance as she’s ‘on the line’. It’s interesting that Vince McMahon thinks Steele and Liz would make a “cute couple” when Steele is 20+ years older than Liz. That sums up how Vince feels about women in general. It’s Wooderson from Dazed and Confused. “I get older, they stay the same age”. The story here is the intertwined Savage/Liz/Steele/Steamboat angle. Part of why the Mania match works so well is the storytelling coming into it. They sit Liz on a tennis umpire’s chair/lifeguard chair at ringside so she’s on display.
Savage hits Steele with the chair and wins on count out. The crowd are steaming about it and that just adds to the heat on the Savage-Steamboat match, the real attraction. They should have had Savage knock Steele out with the ring bell here, just to really rub that in. Hey, they went the subtle route instead.
Among the stars are Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant. Andre is the king of battle royals. He always wins them. Also in the ring is Paul Orndorff, Hogan’s last major rival. So, there are two potential ways for this to logically play out and in neither of them does Hogan win. Interesting to see Demolition out there as well. The participants aren’t just a bunch of jabronies.
Man, look at this for a visual. Using this angle they make Andre look even bigger. Orndorff makes his play and goes after Hogan from the start. A bunch of heels join in to try and separate Hogan and Andre. This allows things to simmer while both of them hurl people out. Andre manages to bust Poffo wide open with a headbutt and then throws him, unceremoniously, over the top. They do a good job of hiding Andre’s weaknesses and showing his strengths. Poffo does a stretcher job!
Eventually Hogan and Andre square off and it’s sad how immobile Andre is. Orndorff breaks it up and Hogan nonchalantly throws him out. Yeah, I’m afraid that’s where you are now Paul. Used up, abused and heading to the shelf. Not even on the WrestleMania III card. Andre throws Hogan out, which is exactly what needed to happen. In the WWF heels never got clean wins over faces but this was clean as a sheet. It had to be. Hogan protests it, the egomaniac, and has to be escorted to the back.
Then they do something mind bogglingly stupid; the rest gang up on Andre and throw him out. WHY? Why would you do that? Right ahead of WrestleMania. Just have him win! It’s a fucking battle royal!
FINAL FOUR: Hercules, Billy Jack Haynes, Koko B Ware & Demolition Smash. Another possibility is having both of Demolition win together to demonstrate their upcoming dominance of the tag division. Nope, Ax gets thrown out off camera. Koko gets thrown out and the big babyface hero is…Billy Jerk Haynes? Oh dear. He doesn’t even win! Hercules does, thanks to interference from Bobby Heenan. You have Andre in a battle royal and he doesn’t win but then you put a heel over anyway? What were they smoking in this production meeting? Complete insanity. You should have Andre win to keep him super strong for Mania. Sure, they had him dump Hogan out but just have him win. It’s not hard. Who cares about Hercules?
Jake Roberts vs. King Kong Bundy
I love these graphics. The Bundy one is especially cool.
Jake, freshly turned face thanks to Honky Tonk Man’s guitar shot, has been pitched in against a traditional heel. Which hampers Jake’s normal psychology of being a jerk. I know Jake was getting wildly cheered as a heel but that’s because he was cool. Jake does still slither around the ring, but he finds Bundy hard to work with. Heenan tries to remove Damian, but Jake runs him down and gets the snake back. Jake goes after Damian; the ref says he can’t so Jake knees him in the gut for the DQ. What a weird mess of a match this was. The crowd pop huge for Bundy eating the DDT though.
WWF Tag Team Championship
Hart Foundation (c) vs. Tito Santana & Danny Spivey
What is that challenging team? I can only assume it was supposed to the American Express and Rotunda quit. It does marry up with Rotunda’s departure date of mid February 1987. Spivey’s new team wouldn’t last long because he got injured and missed six months. Vince tries to engineer a reason for Santana being here, claiming Danny Davis (ringside observer for the champions) was the referee when Santana lost the IC belt to Savage. Santana hasn’t done anything of note since and almost completely disappeared after losing the IC belt. Hart Foundation are getting better by the match here, having been largely bad initially. The double teaming is starting to look good, and Anvil is developing spots where he looks like he belongs. This match gets over gangbusters, especially after Tito’s hot tag. Davis sneaks into the ring and bashes Tito with the megaphone and Bret gets the cheap pin. This was a tidy match. Well put together and it’s great to see the development of the Hart Foundation. They were cooking by this point. **¾
Ricky Steamboat vs. Iron Sheik
Savage is out here, in a cute outfit, to do colour commentary. He steals Vince’s chair. Sheik would have been a good opponent for Steamboat a few years before this, but he’s aged beyond his usefulness as a top guy. They do some nice sequences, but Steamboat is way ahead of Sheik. Steamboat wins in short order with a chop off the top.
Everyone gets all fired up post-match, as we further shill WrestleMania III.
Video Control takes us backstage where Gene Okerlund chats to Hulk Hogan. He claims Andre threw him over the top rope “from behind”. What? Hogan turns the interview into a series of half-truths, outright lies and name calling. Yeah, this is around the point where he became unbearable. I’ll give Hogan his dues. He was really good in 1984-86 and belonged on top of the pile but his promos and in ring work just got worse and worse as he started to believe his own hype.
Elsewhere, Roddy Piper gets an interview too, about his impending retirement. “I’m going to Hollywood!” “Sometimes you were chucking eggs and sometimes you were chucking roses, but it didn’t matter, man, I give it 110%”. WWF has put together a video tribute for him, which forgets to include him talking. It’s just images. A collection of his best promo bits would have worked far better. Piper was an enigmatic in-ring performer, but his promos were another level.
Roddy Piper’s movie career (part 1):
BODY SLAM (1986). Where Roddy plays “Quick” Rick Roberts, a pro wrestler, who recruits music manager Harry (Dirk Benedict) to be manage his tag team with Tonga Tom (Sam Fatu). This isn’t much of a reach for Roddy, playing a wrestler, and they squeezed this into his schedule.
THE HIGHWAYMAN (1987). This was Roddy’s first real acting gig, where he played a preacher in a sci-fi supertruck movie starring Sam Jones and Claudia Christian. I’ve never seen it. It was supposed to spawn a TV series, as the 80s loved high-tech action shows (Knight Rider, A-Team, MacGuyver, Airwolf etc).
HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN (1988). Roddy’s first lead came as Sam Hell, who has to go to Frogtown (a town full of mutants) to rescue fertile women from the mutants in a post apocalyptic wasteland. It’s about as good as all that sounds.
THEY LIVE (1988). If you only watch one Roddy Piper film, make it They Live, where he plays John Nada (literally, John Nothing/Nobody), who discovers sunglasses that allow him to see a secret alien invasion. He joins up with an underground organisation in an attempt to break the signal and allow people to see the aliens that walk among us. It’s a cracker, directed by John Carpenter, and saved Roddy’s career. He states as much on the director+star commentary track. Without They Live, Roddy’s run in Hollywood would have been an abject failure and he’d have gone back to wrestling with his tail between his legs.
BUY & CELL (1989). Robert Carradine stars as a guy framed for stock fraud. While in jail he invests money for criminals and turns a profit. Piper plays a surly prisoner called “Cowboy”.
It’s a shame that Piper’s movie career didn’t take off after They Live, giving him a run of action films as he was capable of carrying a project. The trouble with the late 80s is that he would have been contending with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris and all those guys for roles. It wasn’t until Bruce Willis broke the mould of the action hero in Die Hard that people within the movie business were willing to consider different casting for action films. Roddy was at the back of a long line and felt he didn’t have the time to wait for his shot. At least we’ll always have They Live.
This was the go-home show for WrestleMania III, featuring various matches designed to work towards the big show itself. The battle royal, if you can excuse how stupid the booking was, worked and showed Andre could beat Hogan. The Savage-Steamboat stuff is very prominent on here too, which showed they perceived that as the second most important match on Mania’s card. They worked on Hercules-Haynes and the Harts a little bit too. Generally, these shows are a ‘best of’ the current product and it felt like that.