PTBN’s Excellent WWE Network Adventure: Black Saturday 7/14/84

As many of you are aware, WWE Network is pretty packed with all sorts of content. And as you may also know, we here at Place to Be Nation love long term, in depth projects. So, as part of this initiative, members of the PTBN Staff are choosing programs that coincide with this week in history and after watching each program, they will share their thoughts, notes and recommendations with our readers. So, settle in and enjoy this epic ride through wrestling history!

Show: Black Saturday 7/14/84

Best Segment:

Dave Hall:  Paul Orndorff’s interview. This was the only segment that had any life or interest. Orndorff spoke well, and with conviction. His comments about Mean Gene being bald and women leaving their husbands when they see him made me sit up and take notice. Thank You “Mr Wonderful” for a wonderful interview.

Calum McDougall: Definitely the opening to the show. You get the classic Worldwide theme and then in walks Vince McMahon. The visual of Vince talking whilst the words “World Championship Wrestling” are in big bold letters behind him was a surreal sight, I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like for the Georgia Championship Wrestling diehards back in the day.

Jacob Williams: Just for historical reasons, Vince’s opening was best. It was the most interesting part of the entire show.

Steve Riddle: To me, this was pretty obvious and that is Vince McMahon walking into the studio and standing in front of the “World Championship Wrestling” sign. This was a huge move for Vince to obtain the timeslot on TBS to balance what he had on USA at the time, but it came with such a huge backlash as Georgia Championship Wrestling loyalists were not happy about this. It would end up leading to Ted Turner bringing in Bill Watts so he could get rid of Vince and that would ultimately lead to the long war between Vince and Ted that would peak during the 1990s and the Monday Night War.

Brian Bayless: Nothing on this show was good but because it was surreal and historic, the opening with Freddie Miller in the TBS Studios cutting it over to Vince McMahon so he could shock the world and introduce WWF in this time slot.

Best Match:

Dave Hall: NONE of them… but if pushed Adrian Adonis & Dick Murdoch vs SD Jones & Nick DeCarlo

Every match on this show sucked. This one just sucked the least. At least in this match SD Jones and DeCarlo got some offense in, and looked slightly dangerous at times. Adonis actually looked like he was starting to put on his weight, but he and Murdoch sold well for Jones and DeCarlo. Their finisher looked absolutely brutal: an early version of the Doomsday Device, and they looked like the killed DeCarlo with it. The best of a sorry bunch of jobber matches.

Calum McDougall: The tag team title match was fun. It was cool to see the Adonis and Murdoch team, and it was in front of a crowd who were totally into it which helps my enjoyment of any match, a hot crowd can turn an average match into a good one. The finish of the match was pretty cool because it had the sense of danger about it, Tony Garea wasn’t lying when he said he could broken his neck!

Jacob Williams: Adonis and Murdoch in a solid enhancement tag opener against SD Jones and Nick DeCarlo was enough to take it on this show. Adonis did some fun bumping for the faces, who got a nice bit of offense in. We even got a double team finisher, which is a cool surprise in 1984. I’m not gonna file this one as a hidden gem or anything, as it was more of a winner by default compared to the rest of the show.

Steve Riddle: This was a show with some pretty slim pickings in terms of the matches, but I will end up going with the Studd/Brazil match with the tag match a close second. Considering where he was in his career at this point, Brazil still looked somewhat good in terms of his look and Studd was about to hit probably the peak of his career at this point, and they had a decent match here with Brazil actually getting some offense in before putting Studd over strong. This was a solid win for Studd over a legendary name which makes sense considering what was coming for him later in the year.

Brian Bayless: The wrestling was terrible but since it was short and at the time he was excellent in the ring I’d go with Iron Sheik squashing Ron Hutchinson. It also had the most heat on the show.

Most Cringeworthy Moment:

Dave Hall: Alexis Smirnoff’s interview. This was possibly one of the worst interviews I have ever saw. One criticism of the modern product is that wrestlers have to learn scripts for their promos. Well this felt like Smirnoff was reading cue cards or had memorised words. There was no charisma, no feeling, and no interest. It was dull as dull could be. I don’t think he even said anything worth remembering. And to top it off, I didn’t even realise he was a part of the company at any stage, so this must have been his “cup of tea” in the big time.

Calum McDougall: I was cringing at the Brian Blair interview, he just kept going around in circles and the poor guy had to get brought back on track by Mean Gene. It highlighted why Gene was such a good interviewer more than Blair as a wrestler which wasn’t really the point of the interview.

Jacob Williams: Every time Vince was on screen hyping the new WWF overlords to the Georgia fans, things felt real weird, and he even looked uncomfortable, like he knew deep down that this would be a tough sell. 

Steve Riddle: Considering they already had an evil Russian in Nikolai Volkoff, I have no idea why they decided to push Alexis Smirnoff as he looked like nothing more than a cheap knockoff of Ivan Koloff. An honorable mention here is how cringed the fans of Georgia Championship Wrestling must’ve felt when they turned on their TV and saw Vince McMahon on their show.

Brian Bayless: The Alexis Smirnoff interview was just embarrassing and why did they even have him speak or give time to begin with seeing how he was not being featured on TV?

Funniest Line/Moment: 

Dave Hall: Paul Orndorff takes the award this week with his line “When I come on the screen the divorce rate goes up as women leave their husbands.  It was original, funny, and stood out. That’s all that needs to be said

Calum McDougall: Alexis Smirnoff’s accent was hilariously bad. His Russian sounded more Scottish in some point than my accent does! It actually sounded like an impression of me doing a Russian accent, it was just awful.

Jacob Williams: Alexis Smirnoff told Gene he would use the power of “cossack,” whatever that might be.

Steve Riddle: Anytime the Iron Sheik gets a microphone, he is always memorable as he proclaims Iran is the best and calls out Sgt. Slaughter who he was in the midst of a hot feud with. An honorable mention to the random fan audibly calling Big John Studd “chicken” when he was stalling on the outside.

Brian Bayless: Sheik calling out Slaughter after his win and saying he was a “fat soldier” drew a slight chuckle from me.

Highlights:

Dave Hall: I am not sure there are any.  The only highlight was Mr Wonderful’s interview, which ended up being the only segment of interest on the entire program. I did enjoy seeing Jesse “The Body” Ventura in the ring, but that is about it.

Calum McDougall: Vince McMahon calling a double team move a “Double Elbow Butt”, you can see why he just called them all manoeuvres after a while. Gene being an absolute trooper when he talks about the “best in the world are in the WWF” and then bringing out Brian Blair with a completely straight face. Anytime the Iron Sheik has the microphone is going to be a highlight and just repeatedly going “Iran Number One! Where’s that fat soldier?!” is just peak Sheik.

Jacob Williams: Obviously seeing the Vince opening in its original form was a fantastic piece of wrestling history. Since the matches were pretty poor, even by early 80s TV standards, the promos, while not great themselves, were really the only other highlight. Gene usually does a great job making backstage segments at least fun. I enjoyed hearing Tony Garea sound like a Robin Williams character on commentary. Gorilla calling a Jesse match is cool to look back on. Like I mentioned in Best Match, not a lot of in ring highlights outside of the tag. 

Steve Riddle: Cheesy 80s opening; The time when house shows were treated with importance; Adonis and Murdoch were such an underrated team; Interesting spot for the WWF magazine; Always funny seeing Freddie Blassie with a turban on his head and claiming to be an “Ayatollah”, Sheik making quick work of a ham-and-egger is always fun to see; Bobo Brazil looked fairly decent at this point in his career though it was weird hearing of a potential comeback; Studd was looking at his peak by this point and Brazil does the right thing putting him over; Vince was a pretty good play-by-play commentator during the 80s before he became bombastic in the 90s; It was a bit strange that this debut show was mainly a showcase for heels as there were no faces highlighted at all; Paul Orndorff was at his arrogant best here as he was clearly being groomed for a big run

Brian Bayless: This show was awful from top to bottom and only has value for historical purposes.

Lowlights:

Dave Hall: The entire show sucked dirt. While it was nice to see Jesse in the ring, the match was horrid. The Iron Shiek’s squash was so fast I am not sure it warranted being a squash match. Big John Studd’s “bearhug” nearly put me to sleep in his match against Bobo Brazil, which was probably the worst of the lot.  Mr Fuji and George The Animal Steele was aweful, and Vince’s monotonous repition of the same line began to drive me mad.

Calum McDougall: I never like Mean Gene on commentary, he’s obviously one of the best backstage but I don’t particularly like him behind the table. The Jesse Ventura match was a bucketful of awful, the only thing that was gained out of this was that I learned the name of a player on the 1984 Vikings team. Studd/Brazil is not what you want to be putting on a show to highlight the best of your promotion. And you’re debuting in a new and prominent timeslot, so why oh why are Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant or Roddy Piper nowhere to be seen?!

Jacob Williams: The vast majority of the matches, the bulk of the show, were just plain dull. Jesse is notoriously lacking as a wrestler. It was extremely disappointed to not have any strong babyface presence on this show, especially when they introduce this to potential new fans. How do not at least put some kind of Hogan promo on this show so the audience has someone to root for? 

Steve Riddle: Making the offering a highlight show instead of featuring original matches in its debut episode; Always funny to see S.D. Jones built up like a big deal when he was just a jobber; Tony Garea was about as bland a color commentator as you could get; It’s a good thing Jesse was such a great talker and was able to transition into being a commentator because he wasn’t a good wrestler; Alexis Smirnoff; the jobber Sheik faces looked like he just came out of a high school gym

Brian Bayless: Where to begin. First off, the matches were not in studio but rather from house shows and TV tapings. The talent given promo time never should have been allowed to speak to a new audience. The action was awful and I cannot imagine a match in 1984 worse than Bobo Brazil vs. Big John Studd. Why not give a video package on some of the hot angles and big stars instead of these bad matches and interviews? Also, at the beginning, notice how much of a point Vince made it to tell the audience how big and jacked the wrestlers were as a selling point for the show. Not every fan is obsessed with physiques like Vince.

Wild Card Baby!

Dave Hall: Classic Commentary Award: Vince McMahon’s repetition in his introductory segments really began to wear thin. For a man who had fronted WWF programming since the 1970s, he seemed to only know two lines in this show: “Coming up next” and “And then from there”. I always enjoyed Vince on WWf Superstars as I was growing up, but on his own as a host he was unbearable, and I sure hope the production crew gave him some more lines before the next time he fronted the camera.  At least we didn’t get “What a maneuver”.

Calum McDougall: Most Colorful Hair: Jesse Ventura’s half-Steve Austin, half-Asuka effort was a sight to behold. This was maybe the time for The Body to embrace the bald.

Jacob Williams: Most Complete Form Possible: Some audio difficulties during one of Vince’s segments made his voice sound demonic like a Chicago record played in reverse. Given the situation, maybe its symbolic?

Steve Riddle: Random Commentator Appearance: I cannot ever remember a more random guy to use as a color commentator than Tony Garea as he was not good in that role, and he was more suited to be the wrestler he was at the time and that is putting guys over in the ring.

Brian Bayless: Best Tidbit: In 1984, Georgia Championship Wrestling occupied this exact timeslot on WTBS. Vince bought the stock of the company from the Brisco Brothers (Jack & Gerald). In fact, the Brisco’s briefly teamed together in WWF later in the year. On this date, many fans tuned in expecting their regular NWA action but were shocked when Vince McMahon and his WWF showed up on the screen. Viewers were largely unhappy and I believe around 500 called into WTBS and complained. This was a major move in Vince’s plan to make the WWF a national promotion. In the end, the move to WBTS failed and several months later, NWA programming returned to that timeslot.

Final Thoughts:

Dave Hall: This was the first time I had ever seen this show, as it was not part of what was shown in Australia as I grew up. I was not sure what to expect. I had heard that when it aired that there was a lot of outrage. Now I know why. Vince starts the show by promising the best wrestling action, and then delivers four horrible squash matches and some very bad interviews. I am certain that the viewers at the time were probably seeing Ric Flair master class interviews each week, and then they get Alexis Smirnoff and George Steele. I was nearly ready to write to WWF and complain about this show, and it has been over 30 years since it aired. If you are thinking of checking it out… DON’T.  The 1 point is for Paul Orndorff’s interview. Everything else should be burned and never shown again. 1/10

Calum McDougall: This show is an interesting one because of the historical context of it. I can only imagine what it was like to turn on the TV at 6:05 and see Vince McMahon’s face. It started off well with the Tag Title match and was pretty inoffensive for the most part but you have the Fuji/George Steele segment, and a Big John Studd v Bobo Brazil match and then you realised you’re not in Kansas anymore. It wasn’t a bad show but it’s must have been half a world away from what had been on the week before. Grade 4.5/10

Jacob Williams: After the novelty of the opening segment of Vince introducing the takeover, this just felt like a bunch of stuff haphazardly thrown together. I usually really enjoy wrestling television of this era, but nothing on this show felt like it mattered or even did a good job of pushing the trademark WWF characters to a new audience. I can’t even imagine the reaction of southern fans who were likely predisposed to disliking the WWF in this situation. This debut gave a good indicator of why the ratings tanked, and the program didn’t last. Grade 3/10

Steve Riddle: Overall, this ended up being a pretty bland show in terms of a match perspective, but it was clearly a very historic show in terms of what it would lead to. This was a shrewd move by Vince to take the timeslot on TBS to go with his syndicated shows on USA, but it ultimately didn’t take off like he thought as the fans were furious with this move. Not to mention how upset Ted Turner was which led to him bringing in Jim Crockett Promotions to take the spot from Vince, and that would lead to the long war between Vince and Turner that escalated during the 1990s. While this experiment for the WWF was a failure in the end, it was still a very historical moment in wrestling history even though the show itself was fairly below average. Grade: 3.5/10

Brian Bayless: This was about as bad as it gets in terms of introducing a product to a new audience. The top talents were not featured and they gave a new audience a “B” show filled with terrible action and interviews and by first glance seems like Vince was more set on buying out his competition rather than put out a quality product for this timeslot. Only has value for historical purposes. Grade: 2/10

Author: Place to Be Nation Staff

Place to Be Nation Staff pieces feature any number of our contributors who are multifaceted when it comes to Pop Culture expertise.