This week’s installment of Calendar Correlation takes us back exactly 26 years to Worcester, Massachusetts for Saturday Night’s Main Event, which was taped July 18 and aired on July 29. The broadcast was designed to push the World Wrestling Federation’s upcoming SummerSlam pay-per-view event, most notably the headline tag team attraction pitting WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake against former titleholder Randy Savage and the “Hulkster’s” No Holds Barred co-star, Zeus.
The program begins with classic rapid-fire SNME promos featuring Randy Savage, Brutus Beefcake, The Brain Busters, Tag Team Champions Demolition, The Honky Tonk Man and Hulk Hogan hyping each of their respective matches tonight. From there, we go to perhaps the greatest wrestling show open of all-time, as the timeless Saturday Night’s Main Event music and highlight videos run down each bout on the card.
Vince McMahon welcomes us to the Worcester Centrum alongside Jesse “The Body” Ventura. The announcers comment on tonight’s scheduled matches and Jesse directs us to a video package titled “The Honky Tonk Man’s Greatest Hits” featuring the history-making Intercontinental Champion playing a tune on the heads of various WWF wrestlers, including Jake Roberts and The Ultimate Warrior.
This leads us to an interview with The Honky Tonk Man and manager Jimmy Hart conducted by Gene Okerlund. Honky drops numerous Elvis Presley references and calls himself the greatest I-C Champion of all-time before vowing to become the greatest WWF World Champion of all-time, and concludes the promo with the fantastic proclamation that Hogan’s “Hulkamaniacs” will become “Honkymaniacs.”
Following Honky’s introduction, we go backstage, where Okerlund is with Hulk Hogan. Gene asks the “Hulkster” how he can concentrate on tonight’s title defense in the midst of everything else taking place in his life, including the release of No Holds Barred and the looming SummerSlam tag team main event. Hogan says the WWF Championship is his top priority and states that Honky had better be in the best shape of his career.
Match #1: WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan vs. The Honky Tonk Man
This bout largely centered around Hogan having to overcome the interference of Jimmy Hart, who attacked the “Real American” almost immediately after the bell and continued to get involved on behalf of his charge throughout the contest. Hogan kicks out of the “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” and his trademark big boot sends the challenger to the outside, where Hulk gets his revenge on Hart by hitting the manager over the back with Honky’s guitar. Hogan then uses the instrument on the Elvis impersonator – in full view of the referee, who, for whatever reason, does not call for a disqualification (which, of course, Jesse points out) – and drops the leg on Honky to retain the belt.
Post-match, newly minted Federation referee Ronnie Garvin enters the ring and raises Hogan’s hand. From there, a video package plays documenting Garvin’s zero tolerance policy while officiating. Following a brawl with Dino Bravo, WWF President Jack Tunney declared that any further physicality by Garvin against a wrestler would result in a long suspension.
Match #2: Greg Valentine vs. Jimmy Snuka
This bout was officiated by Ronnie Garvin, whom Valentine had retired in a Career vs. Career Match on Superstars. “The Hammer” arrives without his manager Jimmy Hart, who is selling the effects of the Hogan attack in the previous match. Garvin eventually punches Valentine in the face after the former Tag Team Champion ignores his warnings to allow Snuka back into the ring, leaving Valentine prone for a “Superfly” bodypress from the top rope and pin. Post-match, Valentine charges Garvin, but “Rugged” Ronnie backdrops him over the top rope as a furious Ventura speculates that per Tunney’s word, this should be the last we see of Garvin in the WWF.
A clip is shown of Randy Savage and Sensational Sherri assaulting Brutus Beefcake on the Brother Love Show and cutting “The Barber’s” hair. Jesse Ventura interviews the couple and Savage states that the attack on Beefcake was for Sherri, but that he will defeat Beefcake tonight to force Hulk Hogan into recognizing him as the number-one contender to the World Title.
Gene Okerlund is backstage with Brutus Beefcake. “The Barber” is unconcerned about a proposed “surprise” that Savage has in store for him and says he is “a cut above the rest.”
Match #3: Randy Savage vs. Brutus Beefcake
A terrific WWF match for its time and likely one of the best bouts of Ed Leslie’s career. This match was all action and featured Sherri Martel in her managerial element with some great interference spots. Savage orders Sherri to the back after being sent to the arena floor courtesy of a Beefcake backdrop, and she re-emerges following a commercial break with Zeus in tow. Beefcake snares Savage in a sleeperhold, but Zeus enters the ring and clubs “The Barber” from behind, causing a disqualification. The heels proceed to double-team Brutus, but Hogan arrives to make the save for his friend. The “Hulkster” later hits Zeus in the back with a steel chair as “The Human Wrecking Machine” has Beefcake in a bearhug, but Zeus barely reacts and stares Hogan down. Brutus grabs a chair of his own and Savage convinces his partner to leave the ring.
I remember what a huge deal the Hogan-Zeus chair angle was at the time, as any type of foreign object use by a wrestler in 1989 was generally sold as a notch below death by his opponent (as we will see later in this show). Tiny Lister, Jr., for all of his shortcomings as an in-ring talent (which covers just about every facet of being a professional wrestler), looked like an indestructible monster here, which proves that with proper booking, there is money in a wrestler with an exceptional look, if only for the short-term.
Backstage, Jesse Ventura is with Zeus, Randy Savage and Sensational Sherri. “The Body” marvels at Zeus’ earlier actions and the trio vows victory at SummerSlam.
A clip airs from the last SNME of The Brain Busters challenging Demolition for the World Tag Team Titles, which saw Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard defeat the division kingpins by DQ stemming from interference by Bobby Heenan. From there, Gene Okerlund interviews Demolition, who promise to take out “The Brain” should he decide to get involved in tonight’s rematch.
Match #4: WWF Tag Team Champions Demolition vs. The Brain Busters (Best Two-Out-of-Three Falls)
The story of this match was the contrast in styles of both teams, with the Busters attempting to counter Demolition’s brawling with a more scientific approach. Smash takes the first fall over Anderson after dropping him throat-first on the top rope, but the challengers even the score when Demolition are disqualified for illegal double-teaming. With the referee distracted, Tully Blanchard hits Smash over the head with a steel chair handed to him by Andre the Giant (who had appeared at ringside near the conclusion of the second fall), allowing Anderson to cover the Demo member (who apparently did not possess the resilience of Zeus) and score the deciding three-count to end Ax and Smash’s 16-month long title reign – a record which still stands today. The booking of the outcome was somewhat inconsistent, as a DQ during a Best Two-Out-of-Three Falls championship bout in the past (i.e., the 1987 Hart Foundation-British Bulldogs SNME contest) did not always constitute a title change.
Jesse Ventura is standing by with Intercontinental Champion Rick Rude and Haku, who are soon joined by Bobby Heenan, Andre the Giant and newly crowned Tag Titleholders The Brain Busters. A jubilant Heenan Family rejoices in Anderson and Blanchard’s victory.
Gene Okerlund interviews Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake. “The Barber” says he has never felt anything like Zeus’ bearhug and Hogan hints that Elizabeth will soon be joining them to combat Sensational Sherri in their battle with Zeus and Randy Savage. The duo then discuss their strategy for the SummerSlam main event.
Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura close the program, and Jesse claims that Hulk Hogan is scared of Zeus.
This was a very enjoyable show. The Savage-Beefcake match, Demolition-Busters title switch and Hogan-Zeus angle made for one of the more notable episodes of Saturday Night’s Main Event.