PTBN’s Excellent WWE Network Adventure: Saturday Night’s Main Event 5/11/85

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, JT RozzeroChad CampbellJason GreenhouseScott Criscuolo & Dan McGinn are starting in 1975 and are planning to watch the entire offering of the WWE Network chronologically. They have plotted their course 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!

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Saturday Night’s Main Event 5/11/85
Run Time: 54:47

Card:
Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff & George Steele vs. US Express & Ricky Steamboat
Hulk Hogan vs. Bob Orton – WWF Championship
Wendi Richter vs. Fabulous Moolah – WWF Women’s Championship
Pete Doherty vs. Junkyard Dog

Best Match

JT: We didn’t have much to work with in the ring on this show, but I thought Hulk Hogan vs. Bob Orton was the best of the bunch. It was pretty formulaic but that made a lot of sense given the goal and format of the show. This was meant as an introduction of the WWF product to a whole new audience, so a straightforward showcase of your top gun was needed. They also made sure it tied into the biggest feud of the company as well to make it worthwhile for the dedicated fans. Orton is always sharp and he hung with the Hulkster until the Piper interference ended it. The post match brawl was good too, with Paul Orndorff saving Hogan and Mr. T. Match Grades: *1/2, **, DUD, DUD

Brian: Nothing here really stood out much in the ring but the opening six-man tag match had decent action and the big angle of George Steele turning babyface so I will go with that.

Dan: The more I watch 1985, the more in love I fall in with Ricky Steamboat. He just blends in so nicely with the babyfaces on the roster. He fit like a comfortable pair of gloves with the US Express and like with Tito in a show previous, he even had similar ring attire to his teammates. That being said, that opening six-man was a fun way to get the crowd, both in the arena and the fans watching at home on primetime network television, ready for an exciting night. I loved how they continued the story of the shocking title switch at WrestleMania. The faces constantly went for quick pins making it impossible to take your eyes off the screen. Steamer was flying all over the place looking to impress the NBC brass. Plus we even get swerved at the end with the tag champs turning on Animal Steele. This new project is definitely off to a strong start!

Scott: The first three matches are all pretty even, so I will go with the Hogan/Orton title match, with Moolah/Wendi a close second. Check out JT’s and my full analysis of the matches here on our Vintage Vault Refresh in the article index for more!

Best Performance

JT: I will go with Roddy Piper. The Piper’s Pit here wasn’t the most memorable but it certainly was effective as Piper really laid into Paul Orndorff, who gave Hot Rod shit right back. This was a key segment in the developing war between these former friends and also tied in Piper’s ongoing issues with Mr. T as well.

Brian: Piper was incredible during the “Piper’s Pit” segment as he was ripping on Orndorff for being an embarrassment and blaming him for their loss at WrestleMania. It cannot be said enough just how great of a heel Piper was at this point.

Dan: Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff were made for each other. If this were 10 years later, they would be headlining a “Good Friends, Better Enemies” show. I loved their war of words during Piper’s Pit. Orndorff with his “Stay, Sit” routine made me laugh out loud. Anytime Piper had the upperhand, Paul would come back with a sharp retort. Piper tries a sucker punch, Orndorff blocks and lays into Piper and Ace. The beatdown with the cast was a good follow up to the ending at Mania. These two (along with Orton), were simply well, wonderful.

Scott: Everybody on the card brought their working boots for this inaugural episode of SNME. Hogan, Orton, even George Steele and the Duke worked it up. I give the entire roster a thumbs up for really bringing the goods to this show.

Biggest Surprise

JT: I was somewhat surprised they didn’t even mention Andre the Giant on this show. I know he is off resting but they could have at least showed clips of his WrestleMania match or had an interview with Bobby Heenan and John Studd to bring awareness to one of their marquee stars and feuds.

Brian: Honestly, the Steele turn was out of left field and the biggest surprise at the time. Plus, Steele remained in the company for three more years and got over in his new babyface role too.

Dan: I was surprised they actually upheld Moolah’s request to have Cyndi Lauper barred from ringside. I’m sure they advertised heavily that Lauper would be in attendance and involved in the action, then they send her away? Thankfully the match was short and the fans got plenty of Cyndi screen time so NBC couldn’t be that upset.

Scott: I was expecting a longer, better match out of Fabulous Moolah and Wendi Richter. It seemed rushed for TV when it could have told a better story.

Biggest Disappointment

JT: I am disappointed that they couldn’t find anyone better than Fabulous Moolah to hop in the ring with Wendi Richter on a prime show like this. Moolah as a bitch manager and shit stirrer is fine, but she is terrible in the ring and this was meant to be a showcase event for new fans. They at least did a nice job of showing clips of her issues with Cyndi Lauper and Richter to promote why she should be hated.

Brian: I’ll go with the women’s match here as these ladies had crappy chemistry in the ring together and this all stalling. It likely would have been even worse if it went longer.

Dan: I was not impressed with Mama Lauper’s shoving of Moolah into that cake. I wanted that hideous witch covered in white frosting and poor Gene took the brunt of the mess. Moolah definitely deserved worse than she got. She called Cyndi’s mom a toilet for crying out loud! On Mother’s Day!

Scott: I’m disappointed that Jesse Ventura was still in his tweener phase before going full heel later in the year. He is openly rooting for Orton in the Title match and he does go pretty hard heel right at the end saying “Mr. Blunderful” for Orndorff, but overall he played much of it down the middle.

Additional Observations

JT: I loved the opening promos to kick off the show as it really sets the tone for what is to come; We have a good set up for the broadcast with a sharp look to the presentation and Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura in the booth with Gene Okerlund doing what he does best in the aisle; The face six man unit is fantastic in every aspect: look, workrate, quickness, youth, selling, they have it all; Lou Albano has grown on me during this adventure and I liked the energy he brought out there with him in the opener; It was weird seeing George Steele pop back up as we haven’t really seen much of him at all of late; At this juncture in the company’s timeline it made sense to turn him into a sympathetic goofy face instead of a maniacal heel; the Pit was a lot of fun and officially solidifies Paul Orndorff as a face, something that is further cemented when he saves Hulk Hogan and Mr. T later; And speaking of T, I thought it was very shrewd to use him and Cyndi Lauper on this show to help show that Rock ‘N’ Wrestling is still alive and strong; Hogan and Orton had a fine match but it really existed just to showcase Hogan and tie everything together with Piper, T and Orndorff; Moolah is so haggard and slow in the ring at this point, it really dragged down that women’s match; Lauper continues to be fantastic though, completely buying in and feeling like a legitimate piece of the business, it is too bad this is pretty much it for her; JYD’s mama could really get down; The Mother’s Day party was fine camp and Moolah getting buried in the cake was a fitting ending

Brian: The first thing you notice if you were watching weekly WWF TV at this time were the improved production values. The opening match was fun and judging by the amount of offense given to the U.S. Express & Steamboat it was clear the company wanted to showcase these guys in front of a National audience. I liked how Steele’s turn was performed and having his former manager and recently turned babyface Albano console him at the end was a nice touch. The “Piper’s Pit” segment was great from start to finish and having Mr. T come out to save Orndorff from Piper & Orton was also key in setting up their match at WrestleMania 2. Right before his match, Hogan came out and said Orndorff felt what it was like to have people behind him and wishes him the best of luck. The work in the Hogan vs. Orndorff title match was just average with most of the focus on the guys outside of the ring but the post-match stuff was the highlight as Orndorff cemented his face turn by helping out Hogan & Mr. T. The original broadcast airing of this show included a music video from Lauper’s song “Good Enough” that was featured on the “Goonies” soundtrack but this was omitted from the WWE Network broadcast, which should not surprise anyone. The Women’s Title match was next as the match was poor but Lauper was over at least. The final match had the Junkyard Dog against the “Duke of Dorchester” Pete Dougherty, which was designed to get JYD’s act over to the National audience and to fulfill Vince’s joy of watching his wrestlers dance. Vince was in all his glory seeing JYD and his mom dance after his victory. The show closed with the Mother’s Day party which included a lot of WWF 80s wackiness which of course ended up with someone getting shoved into a cake as Moolah did the honors on this show.

Dan: Yay Nikolai singing! Classless intolerant American crowd just boos. Windham laments pre-match that this bout isn’t for the title. As I said before, adding Steamboat to their group was a wonderful addition. Did Steamboat approve of announcers referring to him as “The Steamer?” I’m such a mark for tag partners dropping off the apron leaving their man hanging. Sheik and Nikolai executed this tactic perfectly. Should Lou Albano really be the voice of reason for a maniac like Steele? Can someone on the Twitter machine tell me what “drinking too much of his own bath water” is supposed to mean? Piper finally coming out and calling Orndorff a piece of garbage must have felt good to Hot Rod. He had been beating around the bush probably since Mania and now Pandora’s Box was opened on this show. Piper released the hate and Orndorff responded with some hard feelings, and punches, of his own. I’ve said this before, but I wish I had a friendship like Hogan and Mr. T. You know, someone who will rip my first off shortly after I rip off theirs. Nice work by Hogan viciously attacking Orton’s ahem, injured arm. That was an impressive bump Moolah took on Richter’s dropkick onto the floor. Watch again and notice the security they bring out for Lauper. It almost felt like anyone thinking about touching the pop star would be shot on sight. Then watch as Lauper springs to her feet in the back and tries to run down the aisle. It almost seems like the security wasn’t ready for it and Lauper goes almost up the entire runway untouched. I do think she got molested towards the end and that fan was immediately taken out back and murdered. JYD dancing with his mom after the match will always be one of those lifetime wrestling memories I’ll dig up whenever I get down on the product.

Scott: Ah the iconic open, although it’s not the same without “Obsession” by Animotion blasting instead of this bed; I love Jesse’s pink tuxedo; Babyface turn for George Steele, why no one knows. TV shock purposes I suppose; Paul Orndorff also officially turns face here as Piper blames him for the loss at WrestleMania; That’s a hot moment when Orndorff was about to piledrive Piper and Orton clocks him with the cast; At least we know with a great worker like Orton that we’ll get a good match out of Hogan; Orndorff with those tight 80s shorts, brutal; Can Cyndi Lauper at least prep before screwing up names and titles. It was WRESTLEMANIA, not WRESTLINGMANIA. Next thing you know SummerSlam will be SummerFest; Wendi Richter was treated as much of a star as Hogan was; Gotta love Grab Them Cakes; I always wanted that Saturday Night’s Main Event t-shirt

Consensus Best WWE Network Match to Date: Roddy Piper vs. Greg Valentine (NWA Starrcade 11/24/83)

Consensus Worst WWE Network Match to Date: Ivan Putski vs. Baron Von Raschke (Madison Square Garden, 6/27/77)

Final Grade

JT: This was a really strong introduction to the WWF product to a brand new NBC audience. They showcased a lot of the top stars and angles and did it at a crisp pace and with sleek production. If I had just discovered WWF via this episode, I would have bought in for sure as the episode was quite engaging. As I mentioned above, it was also a good idea to bring back the big celebrities from WrestleMania to show that the relationship is still ongoing and wasn’t just a one time stunt. It added credibility. That all said, the show itself was nothing special when it came to the work in the ring and that women’s match really dragged things down. They should have just brought in Leilani Kai for a rematch as Moolah needed to be at ringside only. Overall, this got the job done and delivered what it needed to, but in a complete vacuum it is just a middle of the road offering by the WWF. Final Grade: 6/10

Brian: The matches themselves were not the greatest. However, they had two big angles, two title matches, and did a great job in showcasing their stars as well as Mr. T & Lauper. When you add all of that up plus the enhanced production values you get a fresh and exciting product introduced to a National audience. The WWF really hit a home run here as “Saturday Night’s Main Event” would remain an important staple of WWF programming throughout the rest of the decade. This is a great show to watch for fans who are not familiar with this era to check out and see just how popular the Rock N’ Wrestling phenomenon was at this point. Final Grade: 7/10

Dan: I was definitely excited to see SNME on our writing calendar. While I remember the later-on ones from my childhood, some of the original efforts I definitely missed or never sought out so this was a treat. They continued some of the juicier stories from WrestleMania without regurgitating the entire show. Bob Orton got some shine being put in there with the World Champion. Piper and Orndorff ignited their rivalry to a new level. We got out celebrity fix from Cyndi Lauper and Mr. T showing back up again. And I even enjoyed the WWF goofiness on this show. It was a TNT with better matches, less awkward banter, and the silliness of seeing Moolah thrown in a cake or Bertha dancing with her son didn’t dominate the overall airtime. Plus it showcased stars at all levels of the roster in front of a new audience. It was an easy, fast-paced watch and I highly recommend it to new fans looking to fill in the gaps. Final Grade: 7/10

Scott: The WWF really loaded up this first installment of what would be a landmark show for all our wrestling childhoods. Two title matches, and at the time a rare Hulk Hogan title match on TV. All the big stars were on and we even had a babyface turn for George Steele. The backstage stuff was funny camp like the Mother’s Day party that ended with Moolah and Mean Gene in the cake. The shows would be more streamlined as time would progress and even Vince and Jesse’s chemistry would solidify over time also. This was a fun debut show that gave the mainstream audience a taste of what the new WWF was going to offer. Final Grade: 8/10

You can find every grade and category winner from the entire Excellent WWE Network Adventure by clicking this link!

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.