WWF Saturday Night’s Main Event #16 (4.30.88) review
April 30, 1988 (Taped: April 22, 1988)
We’re in Springfield, Massachusetts at the Springfield Civic Center. This venue is still standing but it was renamed the MassMutual Center in line with all American venues now having to have terrible names. It’s a law. I believe Donald Trump got it passed. It’s hosted a few wrestling shows. Most notably WWF In Your House 19: D-Generation X in 1997. It sucked. They’ve filmed some TV there and it’s also where Bret Hart dropped his IC belt to the Mountie in 1992.
Hosts are Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura. It shows the WWF’s ambition at this point that there’s no Hulk Hogan as he was off filming No Holds Barred. His absence from TV allowed Randy Savage to shine as the company’s top guy but also caused a few issues. Filling that Hogan void after four years of him being on top wasn’t so simple. This is the first SNME he hasn’t wrestled on.
It does not help matters that the card is so bad. On paper the best match is either DiBiase vs. Muraco or Demolition vs. Bulldogs. A far cry from some of the better SNME shows. Was Vince McMahon taking the slot for granted at this point? The VT looks worse too. They’re using a green screen, and it couldn’t be more obvious.
It’s weird that Randy Savage is on top here because this is prime Vince McMahon pushing roided up freaks territory. Until the Dr George Zahorian III investigations dialled it all back in 1993.
Jim Duggan vs. Hercules
They’re pushing Duggan and he’s got a forthcoming feud with Andre, sparked by him knocking Andre out with the 2×4. These two have zero chemistry and their timing is all off. Duggan only halfway commits to almost every spot. It looks so bad. There’s no follow through at all. If he was trying to make wrestling look fake, he couldn’t be doing a better job. Look, when Hercules is wrestling circles around you, you fucking suck mate.
Ventura is sticking it to Duggan, which is his right until he made Abraxas in 1990 and was not allowed to criticise people afterwards, due to him making such a steaming pile of shit. Duggan has it won but Bob Heenan jumps in for the DQ. Andre then pounds Duggan until he’s saved by…the Ultimate Warrior, making his SNME debut. There’s a funny bit where Warrior tries to use the 2×4 and Duggan quickly steals it off him. This was DOGSHIT.
Sidenote: Just watching Warrior here has me trembling at how many stupid mistakes the WWF are about to make until they have to give up on Warrior and rely on good wrestlers from late 1992 onwards. Then again with the cartoon/two job era of 1993-1996. Apart from Flair’s run, the company is about to be crap for almost a decade. Obviously there are good matches and good shows in that stretch but the product as a whole wouldn’t reach 1985-87 standards for quite some time.
Brutus Beefcake vs. Danny Davis
This is Jimmy Hart attempting to get revenge for Brutus clipping his hair at WrestleMania IV.
I always had concerns for all these sharp implements around ringside during Beefcake matches. Wrestlers are not known for a love of safety. Beefcake takes this in a few minutes with a sleeper. An awful match. Davis was especially bad here. Brutus grabs the scissors and gives Davis a light trim. It’s a pretty good haircut. Beefcake taking barbering lessons a la Nikita Koloff learning Russian is good commitment to the character.
WWF World Heavyweight Championship
Randy Savage (c) vs. One Man Gang
Savage is at his most respectful of Elizabeth Era. He refers to her as his “inspiration” and tells her not to downplay her part in his success. That’s quite a turnabout. This is billed as Savage’s first title defence, which is true and a little surprising. He won it a month ago. If they’re enforcing that 30-day rule, he’s already up to day 25.
This is immediately better than their dreadful WM4 match thanks to Randy’s ideas and energy. It involves Savage throwing himself at Gang from various angles. Vince struggles to understand Slick’s vernacular at ringside. I preferred that to him wearing a doorag and dropping n-bombs on TV. There’s a lot to be said for grace, even if the doorag version of Vince is more real.
To be fair to Gang, he tries hard here too but he’s limited. Slick accidentally clocks Gang with his pimp cane and Savage hits the Big Elbow to retain. This was ok. Around **. There are worrying trends for Savage’s forthcoming reign and how hard it’s going to be to escape the shadow of Hulkamania. They could have given him the clean win here. Them not doing so would worry me.
WWF Tag Team Championship
Demolition (c) vs. British Bulldogs
Demolition are going to dip Matilda in chrome (so shiny), turn her into a hood ornament for Mr Fuji’s Winnebago and drive down the Grand Canyon. 1988, ladies and gentlemen.
Dynamite Kid looks like shit. He looks like he’s aged 20 years in the past 12 months. His in-ring has suffered a little, but he still bumps around better than 90% of the roster. This breaks down after Mr Fuji attacks Dynamite Kid. Matilda chases Fuji-san to the back and Davey is out here waffling Demolition with Fuji’s cane. That’s a DQ. Demos retain. This was ok for a few minutes until all the bullshit started.
Don Muraco vs. Ted DiBiase
Muraco is a great character study. He clearly only switched it on when he needed to. His WWF career was six years, at the peak of the company’s 80s success, and in that time he barely put any effort in. Fair play to him. He came out unscathed, milked Herb Abrams for some extra spending money and then retired and is healthy and old aged.
Muraco’s job here is to put over DiBiase on his way to a feud with Randy Savage for the WWF title. Despite this Ted can’t help himself and he just flops around overselling like a champ. Billy Graham was managing Muraco at this point in his career with all the tie-dye. They used Graham for comms too during 1988 until he fell out with Vince and left again at the end of the year.
The finish is weird as DiBiase slams Muraco near the ropes and pins for three. Muraco puts his foot on the rope immediately and is even pointing to it during the pin. You could have just kicked out to make sure there mate? The narrative that Muraco was a bit lazy at times being played out in front of my very eyes!
Rick Rude vs. Koko B. Ware
This is the final match on the card. That’s a big yikes from me, brother.
They have some fun ideas. Rude spends too long posing so he’s dropkicked and bounces around doing his pinball selling. They keep a rollicking pace and Rude finishes with the Rude Awakening in short order.
The worst SNME to this point. It used to be a demonstration of the best of the WWF. Here it was running dangerously close to the same shitty TV the company had pre-SNME. The lack of effort to get the product over was palpable, as was the lack of ambition and storytelling. With WrestleMania IV in the books, they had nothing to sell so they just showcased some guys in some matches. Meh.