July 16, 2023

WWF The Wrestling Classic (11.7.85) review 

WWF The Wrestling Classic (11.7.85) review 


Considering the WWF ran a King of the Ring tournament in 1985, which had an actual purpose, it always seems strange they ran another tournament dubbed “The Wrestling Classic” as the first true PPV in November 1985. We’re in Rosemount (aka Chicago) at the Rosemount Horizon. Around 14,000 in attendance. Hosts are Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse Ventura.  


Back in September, Vince McMahon announced his concept for PPV going forwards. It would feature four PPV events in 1986. One in January, March, May and August. Under the “WrestleVision” banner there would be five PPVs in total; starting with the Wrestling Classic in November 1985. WrestleVision is one of the innovations that Vince McMahon probably doesn’t want to be reminded of, because it didn’t work. At all. The show did a 2.53 buyrate, compared to WrestleMania 2’s whopping 7.01. The following four PPVs never happened. 


The tournament format included 16 participants, meaning the show had 15 matches. Which also included a title defence for Hulk Hogan against Roddy Piper, designed to bring in actual mainstream fans. It’s weird how this show bares almost no resemblance to the other WWF programming around the time. It lacks the dynamism and excitement of WrestleMania and SNME. It’s almost like Vince needed a PPV concept and someone else pitched a tournament and he just couldn’t think of anything better. Probably because he didn’t want to burn WrestleMania 2’s card with a bunch of top tier matches here. Although, I’m sure he could have put together a better card if he thought about it.  


Vince McMahon introduces us to the show and he’s got Lord Alfred Hayes on hand to run down the tournament bracket. Look at how ropey this shot is? It almost beggars belief they let this air. The woman’s name is Susan Waitkus and is here to point at stuff. In running down the draw the one babyface pairing is dubbed a “scientific match up” and a two-heel clash is dubbed as “interesting”. In comes Jack Tunney to be boring. Gene Okerlund cuts him off. Tunney was an onscreen authority figure, which in retrospect was completely unnecessary. Okerlund is way underrated as an interviewer. He knew when to stop people jabbering and bailed out more than a few superstars. 


The following are all First Round Wrestling Classic matches.


Adrian Adonis vs. Corporal Kirschner  

The Corporal is the WWF’s answer to Sgt Slaughter quitting on them. Kirschner had been working as RT Reynolds until Vince found out he served in the army as a paratrooper. In comes the military gimmick! He had a crazy wrestling career. After leaving the WWF, for failing a drug test (!) he ended up in New Japan. When that didn’t pan out he dubbed a mask and became Leatherface for FMW. This match is a fucking mess. They can’t figure out what they’re doing at all. It has a cool finish though with Kirschner attempting a suplex and Adonis countering it into a DDT. Not convinced Kirschner knew that was coming.  


“You don’t know a wristlock from a padlock” says Adonis afterwards. Indeed. 


The Dynamite Kid vs. Nikolai Volkoff 

Volkoff is just coming off a title shot against Hogan, so should be considered a favourite. He spends too long mouthing off after singing the Russian anthem though and DK missile dropkicks him to advance in 8 seconds. Hey, this was quicker than the Bundy squash at WrestleMania too!  


Ivan Putski vs. Randy Savage 

Putski is basically retired, and Savage is the future of the company. So, no prizes for guessing how this goes. Savage does an incredible job of selling for Putski, given the Polish man’s diminutive stature. Putski, by comparison, is terrible at selling. He really doesn’t give a fuck at this point. Vince must have liked him because they kept him around for 2 years after this despite not using him for anything. Savage wins with his feet on the ropes. Next! 


Ricky Steamboat vs. Davey Boy Smith 

Or “Davy Boy Smith” as the graphic reads. Both commentators debate how scientific this match will be. In other words, babyfaces don’t punch each other. Watching Steamboat do all Magnum TA’s spots here (but better) should have been a huge “hey” to NWA to run Flair-Steamboat. They got there in the end. Hell, they could have done Davey vs Flair if they’d got him. Davey crotches himself and the ref immediately calls for the bell. All a bit sudden. It’s only his nuts. Steamboat is all “nooo, his balls”. This could have been really good with Davey’s power vs. Steamboat’s speed but it wasn’t to be. Meltzer gave this 3.75 stars, which is possibly even more insane than the random 6-star business he does nowadays. 


The Junkyard Dog vs. The Iron Sheik 

JYD’s pre-match interview is so bad. You can see how he got over and why Vince wanted him but also why he never amounted to anything in New York. Sheik is on his way down the card having been exhausted as a main event. This match is an aberration. It’s so bad. The technique is so poor. I know Sheik can get it done so I’m blaming JYD.  

JYD survives a lengthy spell in the Camel Clutch, just showing how far Sheik has fallen this year, and finishes with a headbutt.  


Terry Funk vs. Moondog Spot 

This is a heel-heel match. Spot is relatively useless. Funk is awesome and can get anything over. Ideally, you’d want either him or Savage going all the way to the final. Instead, he loses in a matter of seconds on count out. You know he can have a good match with JYD. Insane booking. The logic behind the count out is Funk offering a DCO, because he’s more interested in going after Orndorff or Hogan. Spot then stops him sneaking back in. This was famously given -***** in the Observer. It’s just stupid, not offensively bad. 


The Magnificent Muraco vs. Tito Santana 

Muraco is going to face Hogan for the title on the next SNME. He looks disinterested here. Gorilla has to point out the IC title isn’t on the line, which would have made it a more fun tournament, from watching Tito’s perspective, if he was also defending the belt. Muraco beats Santana with a powerslam but Tito has his foot on the ropes. Muraco is celebrating and Santana rolls him up for the real pin. An interesting use of the booking on a double finish to make no one really lose. It’s a little odd they did the heel dirty.  


Video Control takes us backstage where Bobby Heenan reminds us there’s $50,000 on Paul Orndorff’s head, for whoever takes him out of wrestling.  


Paul Orndorff vs. Bob Orton 

Orndorff is over huge, I don’t know why they didn’t just have him win the tournament as the whole thing doesn’t mean anything. Orton still has the cast on so Orndorff goes after the arm.  

This is a really good match with good fluidity, striking, selling and bumping from both guys. They probably go to one too many rest holds considering the match barely creeps past six minutes. It does have tremendous heat though. Orton loads up his cast and bashes Orndorff in the head and the ref calls that a DQ. Another screwy finish but a great little match. **½ 



Adrian Adonis vs Dynamite Kid 

Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat 

Moondog Spot vs. Junkyard Dog 

Tito Santana vs. Paul Orndorff 


Apart from the battle of the dogs, that’s a great line up. It’s a shame they can’t give this round more time. Vince goes to run through everything and Terry Funk runs in to yammer at everyone.

Look at Vince’s disdain here. At least Terry knows where the camera is! He once again demands Orndorff, so he can get the bounty, or Hogan. 


Dynamite Kid vs. Adrian Adonis 

Ventura goes to “talk to the Macho Man”, which may or may not be code for taking a piss.  

Adonis politely slaps on a chinlock so Jesse doesn’t miss too much action. Dynamite Kid is one of those guys who was way ahead of his time, to the point where he has no chance of getting pushed. He’s WWF small, for the era, but is jacked to the gills, incredibly mobile and technically excellent. He has modern era athleticism and most of the guys from this era just couldn’t keep up with him. This is going fine until Adonis runs into Jimmy Hart accidentally and Dynamite Kid gets the roll up to advance. **½ 


Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage 

Before you get all excited, they only give them three minutes here. Savage hides behind Liz and then Pearl Harbors Steamboat, who’s from Hawaii, so that’s real personal. Well, he’s billed as being from Hawaii, he was born in New York. They don’t quite have the chemistry down here but it’s close and you can sense the match they want to do. Blistering quick, loads of countering and (for the time) high spots. Savage pulls out the foreign object, Steamboat tries to back suplex him and Savage bashes him between the eyes for the pin. This was frenetic. Both guys were primed for something bigger than this but for three minutes this was great. *** 


Video Control takes us backstage where Okerlund tries to interview Moondog Spot who can only grunt and rub his head.  


Moondog Spot vs. Junkyard Dog 

The one dud of the QF line up and a dud of a match. There’s no referee so JYD headbutts Spot and counts his own pin! What the fuck is this shit? Dave Hebner is all “I ain’t walking down there for this bullshit”. Eh, who cares?  


Paul Orndorff vs. Tito Santana 

They’ve booked themselves into a corner here. Neither guy is allowed to lose with Santana being IC champion and Orndorff being on a huge push. Tito gets booed thanks to their screwy booking in the first round. This is notably slower than the other matches in this round and Orndorff slows it right down, which is a shame.  

Tito goes down hurt and Orndorff lets him recover. What? Davey got counted out of his match for a shot to the nads. They head outside and brawl around and it’s a DCO. This was bad and a waste of the 8 minutes they had. The teases of Orndorff possibly turning on Tito only came from Ventura. Both guys are out.  


Video Control takes us back to Vince and Lord Alfred, who point out JYD is now in the final via a bye. Not great booking for your babyface. Should have put Orndorff in that spot and switched out JYD if you think he can’t work four matches. Meanwhile, the heel; Savage, has to wrestle again.  


WWF World Championship 

Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Roddy Piper 

This is Piper’s second major title shot after the War to Settle to the Score. While he’d never win the belt, he’d also never take a job to Hogan. Or anyone for that matter.  

The money match would have been Piper beating Hogan here and Hogan winning it back at WrestleMania 2, instead of having a nothing cage match with Bundy. Maybe that was offered to Piper and he rejected it, but it’s more likely the plan was always to have Piper-Mr. T being a secondary headline match for Mania 2. They don’t do much here and the crowd are loud regardless. They work in a ref bump (yay) and Piper goes to town on Hogan with a chair.  

Hogan gets the sleeper, with chair, and Bob Orton runs in for the DQ. This was disappointing, albeit with huge crowd responses for everything, and the screwy finish is another in a string of them tonight. Paul Orndorff runs in for the save and Hogan just ignores him again. The way Hogan slyly treats Orndorff like shit would lead to a heel turn and a great series of matches in 1986. 


Randy Savage vs. Dynamite Kid 

The winner faces JYD in the final.  

In DK they’ve found someone who can keep up with Savage on the mat. In retrospect, it’s astonishing that Dynamite never got a singles push in this company. It’s clear, based on him being in this semi-final, that they knew how good he was as a singles wrestler. This is a cracking little match but the finish stinks. Dynamite with a superplex but Savage cradles him on the mat for the win. I hate that shit. If you get hit with a big move, you should not win from it. Ever. Anyway, Savage is into the final. Dynamite Kid had a great outing today. The Bulldogs would be in line for a big push in the tag ranks in 1986. 


Meltzer gave this FOUR STARS.  


Video Control takes back to Vince McMahon, who’s giving away a Rolls Royce.  

Vince, looking like a sex offender, cosies up to Susan. Howard Finkel has all the officials in the ring and they give the car away. The crowd hates this. Some nerd from Rolls Royce gets a lot of heat. Oh, the car is called a Rolls Royce Classic, which is why it’s called the Wrestling Classic. Get it? Hayes sounds drunk as he announces the winner and laughs at some fan pelting the nerd with garbage. The crowd continue to boo and pisshead Hayes laughs about it. Lord Alfred Hayes taking this with not one single iota of care made the segment better. 


Video Control takes us backstage where Hogan says he and Mr Wonderful have each other’s backs. Well, Orndorff has Hogan’s back.  

Hogan challenges Piper and Orton to a tag match. I don’t think that ever happened, at least on TV. Orndorff ended up getting saddled with Muraco at WrestleMania.  


The Wrestling Classic Final 

Randy Savage vs. Junkyard Dog 

They give them ten minutes to fill because it’s the main event and Savage has to do a bunch of stalling and bumping. It’s fascinating to me that Terry Funk got a better match out of JYD than Savage did.  

Although Savage finds a more ridiculous way to sell JYD’s headbutts. He throws himself into the air from the mat. It’s amazing stuff. JYD is gassed and can barely muster the energy to backdrop Savage to the floor on the finish. Savage is counted out and JYD wins the first, and only, Wrestling Classic.  


The 411: 

This show has a terrible reputation based on the sheer number of matches and opportunities squandered on a show that was just too bloated. They should have gone straight into the quarterfinals. They did put over a bunch of workers given the structure of the show. Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat and Dynamite Kid in particular. It’s not as bad as it’s made out to be thanks to some solid performances from guys wanting to get a push. If you look at the rest of the year, this is very much a “workers card” compared to the sportz entertainment of the rest of 1985. It’s strange that the ‘workers’ would get the first PPV but very Vince McMahon, that he’d use to the tournament to put over Junkyard Dog, who was fucked halfway through a ten minute match.  


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