WWF The Main Event #1 (2.5.88) review
February 5, 1988
We’re in Indianapolis, Indiana at the Market Square Arena. This was the home of the Indiana Pacers until they moved in 1999 to the Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The Market Square Arena is famous for this show and also for being the final gig of one Elvis Aaron Presley, who died shortly afterwards. WWF also used this building for IYH: Buried Alive in 1996. The arena was closed in 1999 and demolished in 2001. Hosts tonight are the SNME duo of Vince McMahon & Jesse Ventura.
This show is a big one. Not only is it historic for being the end of the first Hulk Hogan title run it also boasts the largest viewing audience for American wrestling, ever. 33 million people tuned in to watch Hogan-Andre II, which does rather beg the question of why they didn’t do it at WrestleMania IV instead? The whole thing popped an enormous 15.2 Nielson (SNME was doing impressive in the 8’s). For reference the Nielson ratings for the late 80s peaked in the mid-late 20s but that was for family entertainment like the Cosby Show (yes, I know) or Roseanne. Make no mistake about it, this was an enormous rating. The highest ever. It will never be topped.
This fits into the SNME format with the pre-recorded interviews and such leading the show off. The music is from SNME too! They couldn’t spring for a new Jim Johnson theme? It’s basically SNME, but it’s on a Friday.
The crowd is so HOT that you can barely hear Jesse cut his opening monologue. He has to yell into the microphone. It’s so loud, they can’t hear Vince throwing to VT and cut him off in mid-sentence. They go to clips of Hogan training, and it’s set to Jake Roberts’ music, which he doesn’t have yet. After a few minutes of Hogan clanging and banging, music video style (although nowhere near as cheesy as the Real American video or Piledriver) he just screams laughing into the camera. What were they on here? Well, apart from cocaine.
More interviews follow as Honky Tonk Man sets his sights on Miss Elizabeth and calls Okerlund “green bean”. Gene is having trouble holding it together as Honky reels off suggestive dialogue. Savage meanwhile is bright pink like freshly smoked gammon.
LOOK AT THE FUCKING STATE OF HIM!
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Honky Tonk Man (c) vs. Randy Savage
Honky’s girlfriend “Peggy Sue” is out here. That’s Sherri Martel, the fucking women’s champion, in a wig. There’s back story here as Savage had repeatedly challenged, and come up short, to regain his belt. Honky made it personal by going after Liz, resulting in the formation of the Mega Powers.
The plan here was for Honky to drop the belt, Savage to go into WrestleMania IV as the IC champion, and Ted DiBiase was going to win the WWF championship. That’s how I’ve heard it told anyway. I find the latter part hard to believe as it would involve a heel winning the WrestleMania main event but this part, several people have claimed it. You can see Honky talk about it on Kayfabe Commentaries, although everything he says should be taken with a pinch of salt because he is a bullshitter.
Anyway, Honky claims he had a meeting with Vince McMahon, Pat Patterson, Randy Savage, Miss Elizabeth, Jimmy Hart and himself and Vince laid out what was going to happen. Vince told Honky he was done at this point, and they’d take him off TV and rebuild him. Honky figured he’d be released from his contract if that happened, so he refused to take the job. Before making this decision, he called Jim Barnett (who was working for Crockett at the time) and asked for advice/work. Barnett advised him to not lose on the biggest TV show of all time.
So, here we are. Honky has refused to lose but the match goes on anyway. The story is Savage vs. Honky, Jimmy and Peggy Sue. He’s outnumbered.
Savage does a good job of being vulnerable to the odds but also firing up when he needs to protect Liz. Which is often, because Honky is a dirtbag. The crowd is molten for Savage’s comebacks. Honky gets them all so riled up!
Liz basically costs Macho his title here, because if she wasn’t there he could just focus on winning. Honky follows him out, gets run into the ring post and Savage wins on count out to win the match but not the belt. HTM would continue as champion until SummerSlam, where he dropped the belt to Ultimate Warrior in a squash. If Vince held a grudge for this he also saw business first and Honky carried on working in the WWF for two years. **¾. This was good, considering how short it was, and the crowd were so hot for it. Randy need not feel bad about failing to recapture his belt here as he’d go on to win ‘the big one’ at Mania.
Post Match the villains take charge as Jimmy Hart bashes Randy with the megaphone. Liz jumps in to protect her man.
Savage then makes his own save, not having to rely on Hogan for help. This is the moment where babyface Savage stands on his own two feet and looked like a superstar. Honky did a lot for him here, despite refusing to lose. There’s also a moment where Savage opens the ropes for Elizabeth, as she’s finally earned it.
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Andre the Giant
Andre has Ted DiBiase and his valet Virgil in his corner. Which always struck me as a downgrade from Bobby Heenan. Obviously, the DiBiase story is his bid to buy the WWF title. If Andre wins, he’s promised to sell the title to Ted.
As with the last match, the crowd is unbelievable here. They do something smart to get them to stay up there, by having Hogan beat up Virgil and DiBiase, who can actually take bumps. Andre has deteriorated since WrestleMania III and the lack of mobility in that match is nothing compared to this one. Hogan has to wrestle around him.
Andre attempts a big boot and falls over. It is sad to watch. To be fair to Hogan, he works his socks off here. It’s one of his better performances. Andre pins Hogan, who clearly kicks out very early, and Dave Hebner counts three anyway. New champion!
It’s a shame that Andre’s big moment, finally winning the WWF title, is so tainted. Not by the screwjob quick pin but the producers insistence at not showing him with the belt. There are loads of pictures of Hogan freaking out though, so we’ll have to make do. Andre immediately sells the belt to Ted DiBiase, so he never gets to wear it.
Then the twist, there are two Dave Hebners! You can see from this shot that Dave was a little heavier at the time, so it’s pretty obvious they’re not the same guy. The referee in the ring, during the match, was Earl Hebner. I’m seeing double here; four Dave Hebners! Earl knocks Dave out as the crowd go wild, thinking it was Dave knocking the imposter out. Hogan, sportsman that he is, throws Earl out of the ring onto the heels and everyone misses the poor bastard because Hogan overthrows him.
The final match is Strike Force vs. Hart Foundation for the tag straps but TV time expires and you don’t see much of it. Strike Force retained, naturally. Instead we get words with former WWF Champion Hulk Hogan. He suggests the referee was paid to have plastic surgery to look like Dave Hebner. What if another referee was given the match? Did Ted DiBiase have a clone of every referee lined up? Was there another Joey Marella running around?
As for the title; Jack Tunney declared the belt vacant because you can’t sell the championship. When Andre handed it to DiBiase he effectively gave up the title. So, it was declared vacant and put up for the prize in a title tournament, which would take place at WrestleMania IV.
There’s only two matches on this show and neither of them are especially great but they’re both extremely important to the WWF’s booking in 1988. Savage’s failure to win IC gold freed him up to chase the big belt and Hogan’s defeat allowed someone else to take the main events on for a year. However, Hogan was still a huge draw so the WWF could run two house shows the same night, with similar gates because one was Hogan’s show, and one was Savage’s show. It was a licence to print money. Hulk Hogan’s performance against Andre showed he could carry a match on his back though, which would come in handy when Ultimate Warrior came calling.