20-Man Battle Royal
As I mentioned back at the October 1986 MSG House Show Previewing, one of my favorite gimmick matches since I’ve been a wrestling fan is the battle royal. Seeing all of those guys in the ring at the same time was always really cool because of the interesting matchups we could get depending on who was involved in the match. We got to see several tag teams involved in a battle royal back in October which was pretty unique, but now we go back to what is usually the standard of battle royals with 20 men involved. I believe that to this point, we haven’t seen a battle royal take place on TV unless there was one on one of the syndicated shows, but I’m pretty confident that this would be the first battle royal to take place on network TV since it would take place on Saturday Night’s Main Event. Obviously, we were now a few weeks away from what is shaping up to be one of the biggest shows in company history with Wrestlemania III and this show was in a perfect spot to make that final push especially considering two of the men that would be involved in this battle royal. This was also a chance for some guys who probably wouldn’t be on the card at Wrestlemania to get some shine on TV and possibly get a huge win to head into the spring and summer.
Obviously, the main build heading into this show was the pending showdown between WWF Champion Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant as the last two months have seen a lot of stuff go down between these two men. On the 1/17 Superstars on Piper’s Pit, Hogan was presented a trophy by the WWF for being champion for 3 years and Andre was on hand to celebrate with him, and after mentioning that being champion for three years was a long time Andre would leave the set. Then as we had seen at the 1/19 MSG House Show, Andre would make an appearance after Hogan defeated Kamala and held the title belt briefly before tossing it to Hogan and heading to the back. The next week on Piper’s Pit, Andre was presented a trophy by the WWF for being undefeated for 15 years though you could tell the trophy they gave him was noticeably smaller than the one Hogan received. Hogan would then come out and dominate the interview much to Andre’s chagrin and he would leave the set without the trophy, and the next week Jesse Ventura confronted Piper and promised to deliver Andre the next week if Piper could deliver Hogan so the two men could settle their issues. On the 2/5 Superstars on Piper’s Pit, Piper would bring out Hogan first and then Jesse would bring out Andre who had Bobby Heenan by his side, and Bobby would fire off a great promo saying that Hogan had used Andre for three years and Andre had been ignored by the WWF. Hogan would try to get Andre to come to his senses only for Andre to challenge Hogan for the title at Wrestlemania, and then he would rip off Hogan’s shirt and cross before heading to the back. The next week, Hogan was again on Piper’s Pit as Piper asked Hogan if he would accept the challenge and Hogan said yes, and then the two would have the contract signing as it was then announced that the two would be part of this battle royal. This was a really good build as it put over the importance of the match and how much of an underdog Hogan was going to be against Andre, and it would be interesting to see how much they would interact with each other during the battle royal.
Hogan gives an impassioned promo at the beginning of the show talking about what Andre did to him and the fans, and Bobby keeps his pretty short and sweet while Andre has a great look of determination in his eyes. There was an interesting pool of talent in this match as besides Hogan and Andre, the match would also have the Killer Bees, Demolition, the Islanders, Ron Bass, Hercules, Paul Orndorff, Billy Jack Haynes, Hillbilly Jim, the Honkytonk Man, Lanny Poffo, Sika, Blackjack Mulligan, Butch Reed, Koko B. Ware, and Nikolai Volkoff. The faces get decent pops while the heels had decent heat though Andre gets a ton of heat from the crowd while Hogan gets the big pop. Andre blocks Hogan way into the ring briefly and Hogan shows him the title as Andre invites him into the ring, and Vince and Jesse do a great job in putting over the history of the two men by saying they were as close as brothers at one point. In a great visual, the remaining 18 men stand back as Hogan and Andre have a staredown to start the match, but then Orndorff blindsides Hogan as half go after Hogan while the other half go after Andre. Orndorff, Hercules, HTM, and Reed stomp on Hogan as Andre swats several guys away and Hogan battles back on everyone before hoisting HTM up and throwing him to the floor to eliminate him. Orndorff, Reed, and Hercules continue to pound on Hogan in the corner though Hogan battles back as Andre hits a headbutt on Sika before throwing him over the top and eliminating him, and Orndorff and Hercules continue to pound on Hogan as Bass pounds on Mulligan and Blair tries to dump Reed. All 18 men continue to brawl as the Islanders try to double team Andre along with Mulligan and Jim only for Andre to ram Jim and Mulligan’s heads together, and Hogan tries to dump Hercules only for Volkoff to get a kick in and they pound on him as Andre throws Haku over the top and eliminates him. Haynes and Volkoff trade blows as Andre grabs Poffo and hits a vicious headbutt that busts him open badly in a cool spot, and then he throws Poffo over the top and eliminates him as Mulligan and Bass trade blows. Andre pounds on Mulligan as several men try to dump out Hogan and Andre tosses Blair to the side, and officials come out with a stretcher to help Poffo to the back as the remaining men continue to pound on each other and try to eliminate each other. Hogan drives the elbow into Hercules only for Bass to pound on him while Reed holds him only for Hogan to escape and he backdrops Bass over the top and eliminates him, and Haynes tries to eliminate Tama as Demolition try to dump out Jim. Mulligan locks the Claw on Andre only for Andre to hiptoss him over the top and eliminate him before hitting a headbutt on Smash, and Ax pounds on Tama as Hogan chokes Volkoff on the top rope before throwing him over the top and eliminating him. Hogan and Orndorff grab at each other as Andre hits a headbutt on Blair before throwing him over the top and eliminating him, and Andre knocks Ware down and chokes him on the mat as Hogan battles back on Orndorff. Andre pounds on Jim as Orndorff and Hercules work on Hogan in the corner as they try to force him out, and Andre hits a headbutt on Jim and he rams Jim and Haynes’ heads together as Hogan battles back on Hercules. Orndorff and Hercules pound on Hogan before whipping him into Andre as the two men have another staredown, and the crowd pops big time as Hogan gets two shots in on Andre only for Orndorff to nail him and several men gang up on him. Hogan rams Orndorff and Smash’s heads together and pounds on Orndorff before hoisting him up and dumping him over the top to eliminate him, but then Andre grabs Hogan from behind and hits a headbutt before throwing him over the top and eliminating him in a major shocker. The crowd does not like that one bit and Vince is in utter shock as Jesse is putting over how easily Andre was able to eliminate Hogan as we see the replay, and Hogan tries to get back in the ring only for officials to keep him out as we go to commercial.
As we come back from the break, the match continues as Andre watches Hogan being forced to the back by the officials and Brunzell leaps onto Andre, but Andre dumps him over the top and eliminates him as the remaining men all gang up on Andre and are finally able to force him over the top and eliminate him in another big shocker. Hercules then quickly throws Tama over the top and eliminates him as Jim throws Ax over the top and eliminates him as well, and Jim pounds on Smash only for Smash to dump him over the top and eliminate him as Haynes and Reed trade blows. Reed pounds on Ware in the corner until Haynes comes over to assist and Reed tries to dump Ware out, but Ware bounces back and hits a dropkick that sends Reed over the top and eliminates him. With only four men left, Smash goes after Haynes while Ware and Hercules lock up with Hercules knocking Ware down and he drives the knee into him repeatedly in the corner, and Haynes pounds on Smash before going after Hercules only for Smash to knee him in the back. Smash rams Haynes into the buckle and pounds on him as Hercules tries to dump Ware only for Haynes to help Ware, and Smash tears at Haynes’ face as Ware fires up on Hercules only for Hercules to hoist him over the top to the floor and eliminate him. Hercules and Smash hit a double clothesline on Haynes and Smash stomps on Haynes while pounding on him, and both men continue to pound on Haynes and attempt a double team only for Haynes to clothesline Smash over the top and eliminate him. Now with only two men left, Haynes fires up on Hercules who tries to battle back as Heenan gets on the apron, and Haynes goes after him which allows Hercules to dump him over the top to eliminate him and Hercules wins the battle royal. After the match, Andre cuts a great promo in which he states that it took eight wrestlers to eliminate him from the match, but it only took him to get rid of Hogan as Heenan comes in and says they won the match which he said they would do. He says that Hogan hid from Andre as long as he could until Andre finally grabbed him and eliminated him, and at Wrestlemania he will remain undefeated while becoming the new WWF Champion.
The match itself was pretty solid as all 20 men worked hard and put on a fun battle royal that was pretty much focused on Hogan and Andre for the first part, and then after both of them are eliminated it pretty much sprints to the finish with Hercules getting the win. As mentioned, this was a pretty interesting group of guys in the match as most of them were either not going to be at Wrestlemania or had issues with guys not in the match, but it was pretty clear the focus of the match was the showdown between Hogan and Andre. I like how at the start they stayed away from each other and fought with everyone else, and also how they were the only ones eliminating the other guys and clearing the ring out. Once they did touch, the crowd went hot and it was smart to have Hogan get one shot in until he got attacked from Orndorff, and then Andre takes advantage to eliminate Hogan with ease. I thought Jesse was absolutely awesome in this match as he put Andre over as a guy who’s showing a new aggression which was shown when he busted Poffo open with the headbutt in a great spot, and how Andre was able to eliminate Hogan with relative ease. I do think that maybe Andre could’ve just eliminated himself after that since he accomplished his goal to get rid of Hogan, but he’s not hurt that much since it took eight guys to dump him out which still made him pretty strong. The ending pretty much flies after that and I thought Hercules was a solid choice to win since he seemed to be getting a push and eliminating Haynes helped build towards their match at Wrestlemania. Now one thing I do want to mention which is probably nit-picking a bit and that is having Hogan and Andre in the match together as they were really building this feud so well that you were salivating to see them collide at Wrestlemania, but to have them here in essentially a throwaway battle royal seems really weird and takes away some of that mystique. I know that they wanted to put in everyone’s heads that Hogan was clearly the underdog and by having Andre eliminate him furthers that, but again I wonder if it hurt the WM match a bit by having them in this match instead of keeping them apart from the contract signing to WM. The crowd was pretty hot for the match and Hogan, but they are not happy when Andre eliminates him and then they do die off slightly for the end as they are again not happy when Hercules gets the win. Hercules win the battle royal, but the big story is that Andre is in Hogan’s head and now we will see what happens when they finally square off on March 29th in the Silverdome for arguably the biggest main event in WWF, if not wrestling history.
Final Grade: **1/2