WWF The Big Event (8.28.86) review
August 28, 1986
We’re in Toronto, Ontario. Hosts are Gorilla Monsoon, Ernie Ladd and Johnny Valiant. This was the big stadium showcase for the Hogan-Orndorff feud. The feud was red hot after Orndorff turned on Hogan on TV in late July. The crowd were anxious to see Hogan get his revenge. Anxious enough to draw 74,000* to this show. That’s the “official” attendance. The actual number is supposed to be around 10-13k less than that. This was the WWF’s biggest attendance until WrestleMania III. For some reason, this wasn’t a PPV and Vince’s whole WrestleVision PPV model had basically been scrapped.
I have seen this show before and don’t really remember much about it, bar the main event. My previous takes are available in the Complete WWF Video Guide Volume #1. Available on Amazon.
Gene Okerlund greets us from a helicopter, interspersed with clips from the forthcoming event and the crowd going wild for shit. The stadium is the CNE (Exhibition Stadium), former home of the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays left in 1989 and the stadium closed in 1996.
Funk Brothers vs. Killer Bees
Sadly, Terry has left the WWF by this point, so the Funks are Hoss (Dory) and Jimmy Jack (Jesse Barr). The latter has taken to wearing a Lone Ranger mask. What’s he planning on doing here? Robbing the stagecoach? This match has a lot of scoop slams and armdrags.
The Killer Bees have the mask gimmick now, where they switch on the floor. They don’t start wearing the masks though so it should be blatantly obvious that they’re doing it. Also, they’re babyfaces. What the fuck? They switch blind again and Jimmy Jack gets rolled up like a chump. I’m not a fan of the Killer Bees mask gimmick and this version of the Funks absolutely stinks. Not the best of starts.
King Tonga vs. Magnificent Muraco
King Tonga is Haku, who would be rebranded as Haku right after this (and indeed is called Haku on comms here), and then given the King Haku gimmick. This is a nothing match, so instead of paying attention to it here are some Haku stories.
Brutus Beefcake once complained to management that Haku was too stiff in his matches. Haku got wind of it and choked Brutus out in the shower, lifting him clean off the ground in the process. Haku was once maced by police officers, closed his eyes, sucked the mace into his mouth, and carried on resisting arrest. He fought off eight cops. Haku was once assaulted in a bar by two locals. He knocked one out cold, bit a chunk out of the other one’s back and spat it on the floor. He once got arrested for trying to break up a fight. He snapped the handcuffs. Eric Bischoff admitted he was too scared to release Haku from WCW so never did. Most famously, Haku was accosted by a man at an airport bar who said wrestling was fake. Haku bit his nose off. Andre the Giant feared him. That’s how badass Haku was.
In the ring, he was a middling talent in 1986, although I would never say that to his face. He’d probably remove my bottom jaw. Anyway, this is a nothing match and it trundles along to a time limit draw, which was a tremendous waste of time on a show of this size.
Ted Arcidi vs. Tony Garea
Oh, joy, another Ted Arcidi match.
Arcidi is walking proof that just looking like a wrestler doesn’t make you a wrestler. They’ve turned him heel here because everyone hated him anyway. You can see people, en masse, standing up to watch something in the crowd instead of the match. Arcidi finishes with the bearhug. This was mercifully short.
Adrian Adonis vs. Junkyard Dog
Adonis tries to replicate the Terry Funk school of selling for JYD to get the match over. He bumps like an insane person. Adonis falls apart on offence. He’s best at taking a beating. His various elbow drops never look close to the mark. JYD isn’t very good at the selling aspects either, so it makes no sense for Adrian to have a control period. Jimmy Hart works harder than him. The ref ends up just awarding the match to JYD for some reason. Comms say it’s a count out? Whatever.
Dick Slater vs. Mike Sharpe
What the hell is this doing on here?
Sharpe, Canada’s loudest jobber, is over with the crowd (just about) but Slater isn’t. The crowd enjoy the vocalisations and audible selling. Slater’s comebacks are to complete silence. Well, let’s just say Mike Sharpe drowns out the 60,000+ fans by himself. Slater wins with an elbow to the head. Nobody cares, Dick, nobody cares.
We get a promo with Bobby Heenan, where he promises Paul Orndorff will win the title tonight. He also wants to remove the masks of the Machines. All three of them! Will we finally discover the identity of the mysterious Giant Machine? So, Andre missed a match against the Heenan Family and was “suspended” to write him off TV while he shot his part of the movie, the Princess Bride (which is wonderful, stop what you’re doing and watch it). When Andre came back, they stuck him under a mask and teamed him with Bill Eadie. The idea being they’d have a laugh at Heenan being unable to unmask Andre. Yucks galore. Then they just dropped the angle as Bobby Heenan said he wasn’t interested in Andre being fired anymore. Why? Because he knew Andre was turning on Hogan. This stupid angle is all to set up an actual good angle down the line. Long term planning!
King Kong Bundy, John Studd & Bobby Heenan vs. The Machines & Lou Albano
The Machines are Bill Eadie and Blackjack Mulligan. The latter was added to the group to reduce an injured Andre’s in ring time. He’s already got severe back problems by this point. With Andre out here as well, it creates a weird case of the heels being outnumbered by the faces. The whole Machines gimmick was a weird 1986 WWF thing. The gimmick only ran for like three months. After Eadie headed over to NJPW for a tour at the end of the year, he came back as half of Demolition in early 1987. The match is mostly clubbing forearms and such. After a sluggish contest Andre just strolls in an attacks Studd for the DQ. Well, this was pointless!
Jake Roberts vs. Ricky Steamboat
Snakepit is a no DQ match. Apparently, Ricky is wearing a red bandana to signify his need for revenge for that DDT on the floor.
Ricky has also adopted a Comodo dragon to be his spirit animal, in contrast to Jake’s snake. Although we have neither at ringside. This would lead to various wrestlers getting their own animals. Jake was supposed to use this feud to catapult him into a series of matches with Hulk Hogan, but he was too over as the crowd cheered him. He’d end up in a weird tweener role, one that was a rarity in the WWF, until a full-blown face turn in 1987. He was different to the WWF’s other heels. He beat people up, had a cool finisher and was a better talker than most of the faces. As he beats the tar out of Ricky here the crowd cheer him on and chant “DDT”. Jake gets a gutbuster, tries a pin with his arms in the air, in triumph, and predictably gets rolled up for the loss. ***. This is nowhere near as good as the Boston match they had. It barely cracked 10 minutes and the crowd wanted more blood and DDTs.
Billy Jack Haynes vs. Hercules Hernandez
This is the match that led to their WrestleMania clash the fabled; “Battle of the Full Nelsons”. Both guys are boring and awful. As a kid, Hercules was just a guy I wasn’t into but as a grown up, I find him hard to sit through. Billy Jack isn’t in Portland so he’s not over. Crowd don’t give a fuck about this. For some reason Gorilla had to re-record comms for this. Maybe Johnny V said something he shouldn’t have. The crowd actively chant “boring” and not in the slow mocking manner either. It’s got real pep to it. These people are bored in a big way. Billy Jerk gets a backslide for the win and the crowd gets excited about it, presumably because they’re happy it’s over. Really dull match.
Rougeau Brothers vs. Dream Team
The Rougeau’s came into the company in 1986 and should be fairly over in Canada but the lack of crowd response says otherwise. The match is at a decent pace but unfortunately, they’re saddled with a referee who does the slowest counts outside of Mexico. Jacques as a babyface feels weird to me. His overselling, vocal ticks and, well, his face, all scream heel. I never liked the Rougeau’s as a team, or as individuals. Their selling and bumping is weirdly overblown. Brutus is in there too and the referee continues to ruin the flow of the match. It comes down to whether Greg Valentine can carry his partner, his opponents and the official to something good. Spoiler; he can’t. The match has this bizarre positive reputation and I have no idea why. Even Beefcake is getting annoyed with the referee and he’s incompetent. Hammer sleepwalks through the match, as soon as he’s aware it’s not going to work. Hammer goes for a Figure Four on Jacques but Raymond sunset flips him for the pin, even though he wasn’t legal. The referee doesn’t bother checking the shoulders, as he has done all match, because it’s the finish. Urgh. I hated this.
Harley Race vs. Pedro Morales
Pedro came back in 1985 after some time away. He used to be the WWF champion and a big star, but those days are long gone. He lost the WWWF title back in 1973. Harley isn’t exactly a spring chicken (he’s 43) and both guys are at the tail end of their careers. They get saddled with the same terrible referee as the last match. He telegraphs the finish with his shitty positioning and Harley pins Morales with his feet on the ropes. This sucked but at least it was short.
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Paul Orndorff
Orndorff comes out to “Real American” and they just keep it playing for the Hulkster.
As with Jake Roberts, there are fans in support of Orndorff, although unlike with Jake, the vast majority of the crowd are pro-Hogan. The crowd just come to life here, after sitting on their hands all night.
The overness of both guys helps and every big spot has a swell of excitement ahead of it. I remember liking this match quite a lot when I first saw it. I’m not getting the same positive vibes this time around. The Hulking up procedure involves a dumb ref bump. Whatcha gonna do? Just fall over backwards, I guess. Hogan pulls out the clothesline spot from when Orndorff turned on him, but Heenan runs in with a stool to stop the piledriver. The ref crawls across the ring, taps Orndorff on the shoulder and Mr Wonderful celebrates with the belt.
However, he’s already been disqualified for the Bobby Heenan stool shot. The crowd were excited for the belt change though. They could have run the switch and had Hulk chase for a while. ***
I think this show sucks. Only two matches land (Steamboat-Jake & main event) and neither of them are good enough to justify sitting through everything else. Despite the huge popularity of the Hogan-Orndorff feud, this wasn’t the home run it should have been to kick off a longer feud. Nothing here is as well executed as the Orndorff heel turn.