WWF Saturday Night’s Main Event #15 (3.12.88)
March 12, 1988 (Taped March 7, 1988)
We’re in Nashville, Tennessee at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium. This arena was built in the late 50s and housed an assortment of minor Nashville sports teams over the years. It was also the home of an assortment of wrestling shows including No Holds Barred: The Match/The Movie PPV, IYH2, Wrestlewar ‘89, Starrcade from 1994-1996, Clash 25, Superbrawl Revenge along with ECW, ROH and TNA shows plus AEW and Ric Flair’s Last Match took place here. It’s a building with a lot of wrestling heritage. Happily, renovated in 2017 rather than being demolished like so many other American venues.
Hosts are Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura. This did a whopping 10.0 Nielson, one of the highest ratings SNME ever had. This is coming off the back of the Hogan-Andre II Main Event show, which did 15.2. On tap for tonight; Savage vs. DiBiase as they fine tune WrestleMania IV’s forthcoming main event, Hogan vs Harley Race and Valentine vs. Beefcake teased on SNME #14.
Vince welcomes the “sons and daughters of Dixie” to the show. McMahon is suddenly “from the south”. He was born in North Carolina and didn’t switch to New York until after college. He always had this weird obsession with the south. Look at all his hillbilly farmers and redneck wrestlers over the years. McMahon claims over 35 million people saw the Hogan-Andre match. Wrestling promoters just love to exaggerate, don’t they? Until they owe someone money. Then suddenly, the house wasn’t so good.
Greg Valentine vs. Brutus Beefcake
The Dream Team explode!
Beefcake makes lots of scissors and hairdressing gags. Oh, good lord, he’s terrible. “Now he’s struttin’ and soon he’ll be cuttin” – Vince. Brutus debuts his cutaway ‘sexy’ pants. What on earth was he thinking? Natalya would think twice about wearing them, let’s put it that way. Hammer had long stopped caring about workrate and Beefcake forces the pace here. Honky comes out here to cut a promo on Beefcake, his WrestleMania opponent. This is how you can tell Vince wasn’t too mad at HTM or Beefcake would have won the strap.
Hammer does a bit of time-killing legwork to set up the Figure Four. It doesn’t go anywhere, and they rush right into a sleeper, which Valentine escapes. The finish sees Hammer gets a back suplex but Beefcake lifts his shoulder up and Greg pins himself. That would be a common finish eventually but that might be the first time I’ve seen it? This was pretty good! A surprising amount of energy from both guys, a decent finish and Beefcake goes into his IC title shot with a big feud ending win. **½
Video Control gets us to Bobby Heenan and Harley Race. Heenan claims responsibility for Andre’s title win but it must sting that he wasn’t even there when Andre beat Hogan.
Harley Race vs. Hulk Hogan
Race intends to make all mortal men bow before him, as he’s the King. Unfortunately for him Hogan is “Immortal”.
“I only bow before one man and that big dude walks on water, man” – Hogan, putting over Jesus Christ. What a worker he was! Sermon at the Mount? Had them in the palm of his hands, brother. Wouldn’t put over anyone though. Not even the Grim Reaper. The nerve of him. Should have gone out on his back, not on a cross. Egomaniac. The Judaea territory never recovered. You couldn’t draw flies in Galilee for a century afterwards.
Race oversells a lot here, which makes this tonally similar to the Hogan-Funk matches. It’s a shame Race was so beaten up and finished by 1988, because he could have had bangers with Hogan in his prime. He’s hurt here and missed half a year after WrestleMania IV. He still takes wild bumps all over the place.
Between this and the Andre match, Hogan has his fucking work boots on! He literally works heel here, choking Race with a hidden length of tape. I wonder if there was some thought to turning Hogan heel in 1988?
Race goes through a table here. The man was ahead of his time. Somehow Race stays on top after this until Hogan hulks up and beats him with two clotheslines and the legdrop. No big boot. The big man mixing it up! ***¼
Ted DiBiase vs. Randy Savage
DiBiase was a great worker pre-WWF and has leaned heavily on his promo work since arriving.
Randy has become incredibly sparkly. The Savage formula, from the HTM matches, carries over here with Virgil taking over the Jimmy Hart role. We also have Andre out here, as the WWF have given up on the concept of manager’s licences apparently. Hogan might have been fucking with Savage by having such a workrate heavy match right before Randy went on. Both guys take good, not overly exaggerated, bumps. As I type that Ted takes a bump so ridiculous, I laugh out loud. It’s Rock taking the Stunner levels of ridiculous.
As with the last match, they work really hard and don’t throw in rest spots. The closest we get is Ted doing a Spinning Toehold and he only manages two rotations before being kicked over the ropes. Again, I speak too early as there’s a lengthy chinlock, which kills any hopes of a high snowflake rating. Not that it stopped Meltzer going a staggering 4.5 on this. There’s a ref bump, which sucks, so I could never go that high. It exists to allow Andre to interfere, which he could have done if that doughnut Virgil hadn’t got himself ejected by cheating in front of the official.
With no ref, Andre killing Savage, and no hope of a comeback, Liz runs back to get the Hulkster. Like Lassie trying to warn about a boy down the well. What is it Lizzie? Macho Man’s getting his ass kicked again? Savage gets counted out regardless. Good match though. ***¾.
That *might* be the WWF’s MOTY. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of anything coming up that will compete with it. The same two guys had a cage match at MSG in the summer that I’ve never seen. That’s the only possible contender.
Killer Bees vs. Islanders
Beekeeper Heenan makes me smile. “We’ll get beeswax. Okerlund can wax his bald head with it”. The only possible explanation for this match is the bookers all sat down for a meeting and someone said “you know who I fucking hate? The Killer Bees” and everyone just nodded in agreement.
As with the rest of the show we get along at a fair clip. Tama is 100% beaten by a sunset flip but forgets to kick out, thinking Haku is making the save. Or Haku was just late. One or the other. They win moments later. The crowd is not amused. All over in under four minutes. The Bees don’t even get to attempt Masked Confusion. Jobbers! Bye-bye!
One Man Gang vs. Ken Patera
Slick has upset the US Olympic team by calling them losers. He doesn’t back down here, he doubles down, before stopping off to take shots at the Yankees. Slick shooting from the hip here.
You could be forgiven for thinking Ken Patera was done by this point but he’s on multiple PPV’s after this! Patera gets a bunch of holds on Gang, which doesn’t usually happen. They finish here with some nonsense where they collide on a double clothesline and Gang lands on top. Kenny tries to get Pateramania going after the bell by trying to slam Gang but Slick hits him with a cane and we’re out of here.
We close the show with Hulk Hogan promising to continue breaking the rules. Hey, I guess it was deliberate. He says DiBiase threw the rule book out the window so it’s time for DARK HULK.
Two great matches here, and a genuine feeling that this was the best of the WWF at the time. SNME is back, baby! It got a huge viewership figure, so you’d think WrestleMania IV was looking great on paper. It’s a shame they got so caught up in the title tournament. That whole tournament should have been scaled right back to semis and final on Mania. There can’t be more than four people in the hunt for the big belt at this point. For me that would be:
Savage vs. Steamboat
DiBiase vs. Duggan
Savage gets to dial back to his great match the year before and win clean against his babyface mate as Steamboat was leaving anyway. DiBiase and Duggan have great chemistry. You can even put DiBiase over for the belt and do Hogan vs. Andre III as the main event, having Hogan go over properly clean to put the Andre feud to bed. You could still put Savage over for the belt, having him best DiBiase during the course of the year, get jealous of Hogan in the autumn and still do Savage vs. Hogan at WM5. The only downside is having two repeat matches from WM3 but people loved those matches!