Scott & JT’s Vintage Vault Refresh: Saturday Night’s Main Event XXI – 5/27/89

*** Scott & JT’s Vintage Vault Refresh reviews are a chronological look back at WWE PPV and TV history that began with a review of WrestleMania I. The PICs have revisited these events and refreshed all of their fun facts that provide insight into the match, competitors and state of the company as well as their overviews of the match action and opinions and thoughts on the outcomes. In addition, Jeff Jarvis assists in compiling historical information and the Fun Facts in each of the reviews. Also, be sure to leave feedback on the reviews at our Facebook page. Enjoy! ***


Saturday Night’s Main Event XXI – 5/27/89

May 27, 1989
Veterans Auditorium
Des Moines, IA
Announcers: Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura

1) King Jim Duggan defeats Rick Rude by countout ay 7:15; Rude retains WWF Intercontinental Title

Fun Fact: On the May 13 episode of Superstars, Jim Duggan defeated King Haku to become the new “King of the WWF”. Following the match, Bobby Heenan ran to the back with the crown and robe to prevent Duggan from getting them.

Scott: We have a gold-filled show on this evening in Des Moines, as all three championships are on the line. We begin with the new IC Champion, who swiped the gold from the Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania thanks to Bobby Heenan’s chicanery, holding Warrior’s foot. His opponent is the new king of the WWF, who took the crown from Haku. Jim Duggan was one of the most popular guys in the company but was not in any title plans, so being King is pretty much a third singles title to a certain extent. His promos full of drooling and snot make my stomach turn. The match is a brawl for the most part, and there is a moment where you may think Duggan could win, but Rude does the one thing that always cuts off close pinfalls: He put his foot on the bottom rope. That was his personal bailout throughout his IC Title reign, rather than kicking out at 2¾. Haku comes out to cause interference when Rude was in trouble but the referee dispatched him to the back.1989 was Bobby Heenan’s year as he has his first title in the promotion after three years of struggles and almosts. Rude hooks on a facelock and he looks to rip his nose off. It would be an improvement to be honest. Then Rude tries to throw Duggan’s noggin into the turnbuckle and that of course doesn’t work because there’s cement up there. Duggan hits the three point tackle but Rude falls out to the floor and gets counted out. So we have the predictable SNME ending when a heel is champion: Babyface wins the match by countout or DQ, but the heel keeps the title. It’s a hot Des Moines crowd for the drooling boob as he walks around with the American Flag on this Memorial Day weekend, but Bobby Heenan’s guy keeps the gold. Grade: **

JT: With WrestleMania V firmly in our rear view mirror and order restored to the WWF Championship universe, we enter the summer with a healthy roster of well established stars anchoring the promotion. And many of them are shifting around into different presentations and feuds. Hacksaw Duggan has been a steady upper mid card force since his debut but after stagnating a bit, he is given a gimmick here as he knocked off Haku to take the official crown of the WWF. Yes, King Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Rick Rude is our new Intercontinental Champion, having upset the Ultimate Warrior back at Trump Plaza and it has only enhanced his already robust arrogance. I enjoyed how Vince McMahon welcomed us to “corn country” but it is clear he and The Body are no longer present in the arena for these shows. That said, they still have a really fun feel around them. This is a Memorial Day edition so they really played up Duggan’s patriotism as he was carted to the ring with the regal music playing. The crowd pumped out a loud “USA” chant as Duggan and Rude locked horns to open things up. Hacksaw dominated the early moments with right hands, a clothesline and a big suplex for a near fall. Duggan landed some stiff knees to the head but Rude caught him in the gut to slow the assault down. Rude picked his spots, gyrating and playing to the crowd which allowed Hacksaw to rattle him with an atomic drop and a great piledriver for a real close near fall. Where the hell has this Duggan been hiding? Haku showed up at ringside looking to steal back his crown, but Duggan slipped out to block him. Some officials came out as well and walked Haku to the back, but the break gave Rude a chance to recover and regroup and he took advantage by decking the King as he climbed back inside. Rude wore down Hacksaw with a chinlock and then drilled him with a high knee and forearm blow. Rude kept plowing ahead but Duggan shook off the shots and began firing away before sending Rude flying through the air with a back drop. He followed with the three point stance clothesline but Rude flopped to the floor and ended up being counted out, meaning he lost but retained his strap. This was surprisingly fun with tons of energy and hustle and a rowdy crowd. Duggan looked great and the King stuff was a nice touch. Rude was at his douchiest best too. Good opener. Grade: **1/2

2) Randy Savage defeats Jim Neidhart with the flying elbowdrop at 5:54

Fun Fact: On the 4/15 episode of Superstars during the Brother Love Show, Macho Man introduced Sensational Sherri Martel as his new manager, after dropping Miss Elizabeth after WrestleMania V.

Fun Fact II: Following WrestleMania V, the members of the Hart Foundation would compete over the next several months in more singles matches than tag matches. Neidhart would find himself battling The Barbarian and The Warlord while Bret Hart would lock up numerous times with Mr. Perfect.

Scott: Coming off the heels of his WrestleMania V loss to Hulk Hogan, the Macho Man has his new manager and takes on a big hoss in the Anvil. Jesse complains that Savage should get an automatic rematch for the title instead of having to face Neidhart. That of course is true, except when the storyline doesn’t dictate it. Logic be damned! This is nothing more than a showcase match for Savage and his new more psychotic manager. The premise here is to show that Sensational Sherri is a more hands-on manager who’s willing to cheat for her man. Neidhart really looks sharp here, snapping off some pretty good shoulder blocks and clotheslines, giving you thought that he could win. Sherri’s cheating leads to Savage hitting his elbow and getting the three count. It’s hilarious how Savage has to work so hard to get to Hulk Hogan and the title. Even acting as a heel, it feels like a babyface fun, that he has to get so far up the ladder to get back the man who stole his woman and his title. The match was average TV fare, but the key is Sherri is a much different manager than Elizabeth. Grade: **

JT: For the second straight summer, the Hart Foundation are being pared apart for test singles runs, this time as faces. Jim Neidhart cut a pretty strong promo prematch, calling out Randy Savage for shoving around women and telling him if he wants his title back, he needs to get through the Anvil first. And for the first time in a long time, Savage is in a situation where he really isn’t directly involved with any type of gold. It is an odd place for him as he tries to hang on as the top heel of the company while simultaneously being shifted down into other random one off feuds. This is a really cool match on paper though. Savage has also picked up new manager as for the first time since his debut he is without Miss Elizabeth. Liz has been replaced by Sensational Sherri, the former Women’s Champion. Now that the title has gone dormant, she was shifted to a role outside the ring as she was too talented to just have her walk away like some of the other ladies on the roster. Savage still had his star aura and presence and felt like a top star, so his lengthy reign certainly paid off as far as establishing him as a high level player in the company. Savage stalled early as Jesse shit talks Hogan, saying he sent Anvil to do his dirty work because he knows he got lucky at Mania. Sherri got involved early on, tying up Anvil’s leg  but the powerhouse maintained control, slamming Savage’s head into the corner. Macho turned the tide and Sherri continued to land her blows as well, showcasing the important role she would be playing going forward and establishing the stark difference between her and Liz. Anvil landed a pair of shoulderblocks, with the second coming via slingshot, and then hit a clothesline for a two count. He followed with a dropkick that knocked Macho to the floor where the Anvil met him with another dropkick. Back inside, Anvil hit a powerslam for another near fall. Jesse talked about the importance of this match for Savage, as if he lost it may bust him way down the ladder. Sherri paid dividends again as she untied Savage from the tangled ropes which cause Anvil to spill outside. Savage clubbed him with a an axe blow into the guard rail and then polished him off with the flying elbow back inside. Man, another fun little sprint here. Savage mowing through contenders on the ladder in a quest for a title rematch is a good story, especially since he can have solid matches with all of them along the way. Anvil showed good energy too in this rare singles tilt. Grade: *1/2

3) Hulk Hogan defeats Big Boss Man to retain WWE Heavyweight Title in a steel cage match when he escapes the cage at 10:01

Fun Fact: In an attempt to boost Hulk Hogan’s acting career, the WWF produced a movie starring Hogan as Rip Thomas and Tiny Lister as his rival, Zeus. With the movie slated for release on June 2, 1989, trailers and clips began running on WWF TV during the month of May. The Zeus character would cross over from the silver screen to WWF programming and would become a real opponent of Hogan during the summer of ‘89.

Fun Fact II: The Mega Powers feud with the Big Boss Man and Akeem began following the inaugural SummerSlam in 1988 and lasted nearly a year to this point, during with the Mega Powers “exploded” and the WWF title changed hands back to Hulk Hogan. This match would be the conclusion of the feud between Hogan and the Big Boss Man.

Scott: On this night we have the continuation of a red hot feud. Hulk Hogan defends his title against Boss Man in the cage, which continues a feud from 1988, but there’s a big wrinkle in the mix. ZEUS! Slick brings him out and he stands at the entrance to the cage, and while Hogan comes out he sees the obstacle standing in front of the cage. Hogan tries to get by but Zeus attacks him with a boot to the chest and clubbing forearms, leaving the champ on the floor beaten down. Could there be a big upset? Could the Boss Man win the title from this. Well the match does start and… it’s amazing. The Boss Man brings all the goods to Hogan and honestly, this may be the best match Hogan’s ever worked in SNME’s history. It’s a back and forth brawl with one of the biggest spots in the show’s history. Both men are on the top of the cage as Boss Man is trying to escape, and Hogan… yes Hogan of all people… hits a superplex off the top of the cage and both men thunder to the mat. That was a spot I think no one ever expected. The place is going bonkers and I remember hi-fiving my buddy when we were watching at my house. The match continues to go back and forth and includes Boss Man choking Hogan out with a steel chain and the night stick. Hogan, as he always does, weathers the storm and even survives Slick running in and grabbing Hogan’s leg as he’s trying to climb the cage. Hogan races with Boss Man (similar to the Orndorff cage match in 1987) and the camera angle is perfect of Hogan hitting the floor in the background while Slick tries to unhook the handcuffs on Boss Man. Hogan celebrates after the match, which to me is the best in SNME history to date. Hogan and Boss Man worked their asses off here and the superplex came out of nowhere. However, even with Hogan celebrating we have one loose end that comes from this match; ZEUS. Grade: ***1/2

JT: Hulk Hogan has been dealing with Slick and the Twin Towers since the fall, unable to shed them from his tail. Now that he is WWF Champion, he is feuding one-on-one with the Big Boss Man and that issue has led them inside a steel cage in a big time setting here. Before the bout Slick promised a big surprise and that surprise was revealed off the bat as the monstrous Zeus was brought out by Slick to meet the champion at the door of the cage. Zeus was the antagonist in Hulk Hogan’s No Holds Barred movie and he decided to come haunt Hogan at his day job as well. Hogan tried to enter the cage but Zeus met him with a kick to the chest and a series of rattling blows to the shoulders. As Hogan was left prone on the floor, Zeus stalked off. After a break, Hogan pulled himself up and made it into the cage for the title match but he was immediately met by the challenger, who choked him with his torn shirt and peppered him with fists. The match as escape rules only and the crowd was buzzing as Hogan came back with a clothesline and right hands of his own. Boss Man cut him back down and then dropped a big splash on him before trying his first escape. Hogan made the save and the two traded blows until Boss Man dropped him with a spinebuster. Boss Man ascended the cage and actually made it all the way down the other side, but Hogan caught him at the last second and started choking him. He pulled Boss Man up, choked him again and then hit a mammoth superplex off the top of the cage! Hache mache! That was a fantastic spot. Both men took a while to recover but Hogan was able to recover first and he began crawling for the cage door until Boss Man hooked his foot and dragged him back in. Boss Man slugged Hulk down again and Slick tossed him in a chain, which he used to choke out the champion. I will say that Slick and Boss Man have executed a hell of a gameplan so far. Hogan would block a shot into the cage but both men ended up running the other into the steel right after, leaving both rattled again. As they got up, Hogan spiked Boss Man into the buckle and then got some revenge with the chain. As the champion climbed up the side of the cage, Slick bounded into the ring and tied him up, making the save. Hogan crotched Boss Man across the top rope and then cuffed him to it. The bleeding Boss Man got close to the door but couldn’t reach the floor. As Slick scrambled and tried to unlock the cuffs, Hogan scaled the wall and escaped for the win. He capped it off by ramming Boss Man into the steel and then beating Slick around. This was a really strong title cage match here. Boss Man was built up very well as a heel challenger and felt like a legitimate threat for the gold. Hogan worked hard and the superplex spot was so damn awesome. Slick has really done a nice job as a top level manager during this feud too as he kept pulling tricks out of his sleeve to keep his guys in the mix. Hogan retains his title on a SNME for the first time in quite a while and it was a very hard fought win. Grade: ***

4) Brian Busters defeat Demolition by disqualification at 9:15; Demolition retains WWF Tag Team Titles

Fun Fact: This would be the beginning of a hot feud between the tag team champions, Demolition, and Heenan’s in-ring technicians, The Brain Busters (Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard). By this point, Demolition had held the title belts for 14 months dating back to WrestleMania IV.

Scott: We haven’t seen the tag team champions on SNME in a while, but we see them here against the #1 contenders. It’s evident that based on the fact that, well they’re awesome, Tully & Arn moved right up the ladder to be #1 contenders for the straps and they get their shot here. Early on the bigger champions really manhandle the smaller technical guys for the early portion of the match. Then, we get expert heel work by Arn. Tully is in a submission hold, so his partner sneaks into the ring, makes Smash come out to get the referee distracted, then he kicks Ax in the knee. The match goes back and forth with brawling vs. technical double teaming. The fight is a lot of fun and it ends when a frustrated Ax shoves Joey Marella and the champions get disqualified. The brawl continues out into the aisle and the floor. This feud is easily far from over and a rematch is definitely in the offing and the show has been one of the best top to bottom episodes in quite some time, with three solid title matches and a lot of guys who brought their working boots. Grade: **1/2

JT: When the Brain Busters were imported from the NWA, you knew it was only a matter of time before they were inserted into a tag title feud. We haven’t seen much of Demolition here on SNME but they are fully blown faces now and are super over with the fans. After dispatching the Powers of Pain at Mania, they were ready for their next contenders. Tully and Smash kick things off but it quickly devolved into a brawl as the Busters tried to double team to no avail. When the dust settled, Ax and Arn Anderson were in there and the challenger was taking a beating. The champs tagged and double teamed, clubbing away viciously at Arn in the corner. Arn landed a blow and celebrated but that was short lived as Smash popped up and whacked him back down. A moment later, the Busters were regrouping outside as the champs stood tall. Back inside, Ax clobbered Tully, keeping him rocking and then knocking him back outside. Smash pitched Tully inside but Ax clotheslined him right back to the floor, where he collided with Bobby Heenan. After regrouping yet again, Tully climbed back inside but things picked up where they left off as Ax locked him in a neck vise and then tagged out to Smash, who hoisted Tully high in the air with a choke. And then the tables finally turned as Arn snuck in and kicked Smash in the back of the knee, causing him to collapse hard to the mat. And the challengers went right to work with their menacing quick hitting double team offense. They continued to lean on Smash, picking up near falls in between tags and wear down holds. This is where the Busters were at their best, working a frenetic yet controlled pace where they do whatever they can to frustrate their opponents while also wearing them down. And the tactics were effective as Ax finally stormed in the ring and just shoved the referee to the mat to draw a DQ. So, they retain the belts but the Busters get the win… meaning this feud is likely to continue. The match was well worked and pretty heated and really felt like the kick off to something much bigger. It was definitely a sharp tag team title feud to set things up for the summer. Grade: **

5) Jimmy Snuka defeats Boris Zhukov with a Superfly Splash at 1:11

Fun Fact: Jimmy Snuka left the WWF in July 1985. During his time away from the Federation, he split his time between New Japan Pro Wrestling and the American Wrestling Association. Snuka made his return to the WWF at WrestleMania V and makes his in-ring return here at SNME.

Scott: This was a quick show-ending squash to showcase a WWF legend from before the Federation Era started. Snuka left in 1985 to join the AWA and get some quick money from Verne (if he had any left). I remember watching Snuka on ESPN feuding with Col. DeBeers and getting some big wins on TV. But clearly the writing was on the wall in Minneapolis and he came back to Vince for some more dough. He made an unusual return at WrestleMania V, being randomly announced before a match. Poor Boris is a relic as the Cold War was slowly ending by the end of the decade. Nothing more here than a showcase return for the Superfly. Grade: DUD

JT: After being gone from the company for nearly four years, Jimmy Snuka made his surprise return at WrestleMania V, waving to the crowd and establishing that he was back. Now, he is back in the ring as well and closes out the show with a tilt against the beefy Russian Boris Zhukov. And the match was very short lived as Snuka made very quick work of the Bolshevik with a flurry of offense capped with a Superfly splash. Snuka was a good name to have back and he can be used in a real mid card role to help establish heels coming up the ladder and being prepped for bigger things. Grade: DUD

Final Analysis

Scott: This is one of the best all-around episodes in quite a while. All three titles were on the line and all three title matches were fun to watch, particularly that WWF Title in the steel cage. I don’t believe anybody expected Hulk Hogan and the Big Boss Man to put on that great of a match but they did. Almost 25 years later it still holds up as one of the best SNME matches of all time. Randy Savage gets some shine as he looks for his WWF Title rematch. So is Zeus sticking around? After what we saw clearly he is. Rick Rude and the Brainbusters are showcased as Bobby Heenan’s family is at its best here. If there’s only one SNME episode you would want to throw in at any given time, this one should be it. Plenty of great ring work and storytelling. Jesse and Vince were at their best married couple broadcast team here. Enjoy! Final Grade: A

JT: 1989 continues to be a good year for SNME with our second straight strong outing. The matches here all clicked and with three titles on the line, the card certainly was stacked. The opener was a lot of fun with Duggan working really hard and Rude bumping all around. Savage/Neidhart was fine for what it was as it only existed to help get Savage a nice rehab win and set him up for title rematches around the country. The cage match was very good with the awesome superplex spot, some focused work by both men and the tease with Zeus to kick it all off. The tag title match was fine too even thought it was clearly stage one of a multi-part affair. The Snuka squash was fine too, just there to reintroduce the Superfly to the promotion. The energy was high level and avoided the usual post Mania doldrum and that is thanks to a deep roster that was easy to mix-and-mash due to all the talent brimming from it. This one is definitely worth checking out if you haven’t seen it, just for the superplex spot alone. Final Grade: B+